August 2016 By Shivi Verma If we married ourselves before we married another, we could create a more egalitarian and joyous world, says Shivi Verma A self-marriage ceremony in progress at one of Sukhvinder Sircar’s joyous women retreats I used to be part of a ladies only Whatsapp group. In it we shared our dreams, hopes, aspirations, complaints, problems and challenges, intimately and animatedly. And as usual marital issues cropped up. How there were unending demands from spouse, children and in-laws. How everybody saw you from the prism of the role you were playing, and not the person you were. How dreams and desires got sacrificed at the altar of pleasing society and appeasing people. How they felt constricted by the expectations placed on them. How they felt taken for granted by the men in their lives. How nobody realised the significance of letting them have some me-time dedicated to their hobbies, or self-nurturing. Some of the young unmarried girls who were also part of the group, grew fearful of marriage on reading this litany of complaints. And then a spirited member suggested that the best way to deal with this issue was to marry oneself before marrying anyone else. Though the ladies giggled, they immediately connected with the idea. They agreed that they need not look up to someone else to feel happy, worthy, loved and complete. And unless they ensured their own happiness, they could not make someone else happy. Self- marriage was a way to commit to their own growth and welfare, over anything or anybody else. An unmarried member vowed, “I’ll not wait for marriage to feel beautiful like a bride. I’ll go shopping tomorrow and buy myself some finery, dress up like a newlywed, and celebrate.” Though young girls often do this for fun, if considered seriously the observance of self- marriage has the potential to awaken people to their true calling. Says Veechi Shahi, a therapist and counsellor, “On a deeper level, self-marriage is about acknowledging and honouring the Divine within as your eternal partner. When you realise that all the relationships in the world are a reflection of your own relationship with yourself you become committed to honouring the invaluable life-partner within yourself. This is called self-marriage. The better your relation with yourself, the better it is with the world.” Looked at from this perspective, all the dysfunctional relationships of our lives are only trying to push us to our eternal partner within ourselves. And once that relationship is fully established, you negotiate the labyrinth of worldly relationships much more easily. What is self-marriage? In normal marriages couples pledge lifelong commitment to each other. To be there for each other in good and bad times, in sickness and in health, till death does them part. To share their sorrows and joys, highs and lows, and be loyal to each other. But conventional marriages also classify the man as the provider and the woman as the provided. It establishes the man as the master of the household to whom wife and children must be obedient and subservient. While a married man is expected to shoulder the responsibility of providing for the material needs of his family, the idea of respecting their inherent divinity and individuality is not given any consideration. The concept of existing as equal partners, as soul mates aiding each other in their spiritual, mental and material growth does not find place. Consequently, both men and women often feel yoked by each other’s high expectations and lack access to a higher vantage point to view the relationship from. Like women, men too have to often forego their many wishes and desires at the altar of marriage. To keep the relationship afloat, often people suppress their angst which manifests as diseases, break-ups and a life full of complaints. People are not trained well to handle the complexities of marriage. Says Mona Verma, a teacher living in USA, “As a kid I was showered with love and affection from my parents. But my life took a 180-degree turn after marriage. Though my in laws were nice people, the collapse of my sister-in law’s marriage soon after my wedding imposed severe stress on them. When she, along with her two-year-old son, came to live with us, I had to try even harder to make space for myself in a family which was already unhappy. I had to put in all my energies to prove my worth as a good daughter- in-law. And though I succeeded I was not happy at all. I felt I was faking it all the time. To fit into a place that was far from happy, I became unhappy myself. I began to seriously question the meaning of marriage.” Self-marriage, on the other hand, affirms that an individual is complete and whole in himself. Thus insecurity which is the basis of modern marriages is ruled out from the start. Self-marriage involves loving and respecting oneself unconditionally and working in one’s highest interest. Self-married people forge relationships to share what they already have, instead of seeking things from outside. Thus there is no room for manipulating, controlling or dominating the partner. Says Abhishek Thakore, founder of the Blue Ribbons movement, “Each of us is whole and complete in ourselves. What attracts us in another is also present in us but since we aren’t in touch with it fully, we seek it from out. Only when I am fully in a relationship with myself, at peace with myself, and find in myself all that I seek outside will I be able to relate deeply and fully with others.” The shift For most people self-marriage is like a gradual coming of age. When like a caterpillar aching for transformation, they one day find that turning point which unfolds their butterfly Selves. For Mona actual transformation happened when her husband found a job overseas and she and her two daughters, moved with him. Her first step into self-knowledge was facilitated by the book, You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. “I learnt for the first time in my life the value of self-love. How this could give a complete boost to one’s self esteem. It gradually dawned on me that in order to lead a truly happy life, I should be able to know myself, my needs.” Her quest has drastically changed her relationships. “Now a difference of opinion with my partner or anyone else does not bog me down as it used to earlier. I know they are on their journey and I am on mine. And as long as I am in alignment with my inner Divine, there is space and easy acceptance for everything in life, without getting deeply rattled about the ups and downs of life.” Abhishek came around to the concept when he attempted to know what being a man in the New Age meant. “I realised that men tried to compensate for the inability to give birth by doing heroic deeds, leaving a legacy and having children. And all these acts might create an exaggerated notion of masculinity, again separating us from our complete self. Self-marriage can bring a completion to this search. It can make us respond to the challenges of what it is to be a man in the New Age. It is about having the guts to be vulnerable and acknowledging your challenges, shadows and your emotions. To realise that we are not hard, serious people, but as humane as women are. Earlier, we dominated the space as hunters, providers, conquerors, but now we have to step back and allow the feminine to do its dance, paving the way for fluidity and expression,” he says. Talking about his turning point, he reflects, “I don’t remember specifically when, but listening to Kabir’s bhajan, Zara halke gaadi haanko was a pivotal point in this direction. He quotes the last stanza: Bilakh Bilakh kar chidiya roye Bichad gayi meri jodi Kahe kabir suno bhai saadho Jin jodi un todi! He continues, “The bird suffers and weeps on her separation from her partner. Kabir’s observation that there is already a separation embedded in union, opened my mind. I realised life is a journey in which we are together, but alone. The greater part is between us and ourselves. And only when we become complete in ourselves, will our relationships undergo a transformation. Instead of clingy battlegrounds, they will celebrate the joy of connection without depending on each other. I feel that it is only self-married people who can truly honour marriages!” The self-marriage ceremony A woman reading out the vows at her self-marriage ceremony While self- marriage does not need an elaborate ritual (one can simply take a few moments to pledge to oneself a life committed to inner growth, and self-love), in certain parts of the world there is actually a ritual around this concept. Whether formal or informal, performed either at the beginning, middle, and or end of the ceremony, they are held almost the same way as two individuals in matrimony. It can include guests, cake, and reception. Also, the person can have a private moment in a room where they can express self-love with a mirror and a candle. Joint self-marriage with a partner or group is also possible. One-on-one ceremonies are also possible. There are countless ways through which people can perform these ceremonies to feel one with themselves Sukhvinder Sircar, leader of Joyous Woman! a self-empowerment movement, regularly conducts such rituals in India and abroad. For her it’s a way of liberating women and making them come into their own, by reclaiming their inner goddess. Hema Badlani, a member of the movement, says, “The feminine energy is on an upsurge and tuning into her own power. This is the time when the female accesses her infinite I, her wholeness and her divinity. That is why I choose to make the Universe my partner of life.” Says Shivani Vaswani, another member, “Self-marriage is the ultimate path to being a conscious
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