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mind bending loop escherThe end of another academic year, my 27th in Higher Education, my 20th since completing my PhD, and my 5th as a therapist. There is a lot of life in that sentence; a lot of re-modelling, career change, new beginnings, more endings. The older I get, the more I witness myself in transition, and understand this as the only consistency in life. Constantly changing. Like the illustrations of dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher.  

In the counselling and psychotherapy profession we hold great values in endings, making the whole process as conscious as we can. This is true in the room with clients, and true in the classroom with trainees. We, the course team at the University, have just seen another set of cohorts finish their training: two post-graduate diploma counselling courses, and our MSc psychotherapy cohort. Three courses, three different group endings; a total of 55 trainees, some 55 different individual styles of endings. I witnessed most of them, and I felt a mix of emotions - seeing ‘good’ endings, and seeing endings that not ‘bad’ per se yet potentially leaving ‘unfinished business’.

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growing loveIn last week’s post, I shared reflections on my recent marriage, and the choices my partner and I made in incorporating some teachings of the Buddhist Dharma not only in the ceremony but also in setting up how we are going to try to orientate our relationship now we are married. Not a promise, but more a promise to try. I explained how we had taken the six paramitas (or 6 perfections as they are also known) as six practices that we will focus on in order to create a safe container in which we as individuals and we as partners can grow (or in Buddhist parlance, “wake up”). Traditionally, the teachings on the paramitas help the bodhisattva (or we might say the "spiritual warrior") point their activity toward not only their own waking up, but the waking up of others. The bodhisattva aims to “perfect” the qualities of generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation and wisdom. But how does this relate to marriage and intimate relationships?

Chogyam Trungpa, a Tibetan meditation master, explains that the bodhisattva vows not to hold their own individual territory and defend it tooth and nail, but rather to become open to the world that we are living in. I like the way that Susan Piver, a teacher in the Shambhala tradition that Trungpa founded, brings this attitude to relationships and “expanding beyond our list of complaints, and taking refuge in a far more spacious view. We create the container in which love itself wants to live”. A place where love wants to live - we aim our behaviour toward that which invites love rather than demands it.

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Wedding ringsI got married last week. How odd to write that? I say that because in many ways, my life and my self is no different to this time last week when I was not married. But when I stand back and say to myself “I am married” there is some disbelief. It is something about achieving a milestone, or as one of my friends said to me on the day itself, “as if you have become an adult”. And I imagine a lot of this internalised sense of “gosh” is taking part in a ritual, a ceremony, acknowledging a rite of passage.

My partner and I have been together for over a decade and for some time we considered why get married given we were committed to our relationship anyway. Yet it felt somehow important to have a public witnessing of our commitment to one another: to bring our friends and family together and celebrate love, life and the power of living a conscious relationship. Relationship to one another, relationship to our friends and family, relationship to our community. Relationship was what we were celebrating, honouring and committing to.