Blessing for those who are Single
As someone who has spent most of her adult life single without really meaning or wanting to, I know Valentine's Day can be tough. If you have recently been through the ending of a relationship, it can be particularly difficult.
Here’s what I can say from my own experience of going through a divorce 18 years ago is that It gets better, over time. At first the peaks and valleys are really steep but over time they are less extreme and things even out.
Over time I found myself feeling content and even happy being on my own. There are things to recommend it - never having to fight over the remote, or anything else for that matter. You can eat cookies in bed with no-one complaining about crumbs. Those are small things.
There are bigger things as well. It can be time for soul searching, to learn from your patterns and to discover what it is you really want. Write it down - post it someplace. Let the universe know what you’re looking for.
This can be a time for for solitude and reflection, and also for building friendships with others, time for creative work you might not have time to do in a relationship.
And so I offer this blessing for any of you who are single
May you enjoy good health of heart, mind and body.
May you be of strong courage when you can,
and let yourself fall apart from time to time.
May you accept help when it is offered,
and ask for it when you need it. Receiving is blessed, as well.
May you make time to tend your deepest needs.
May you have many friends who love you and who you love
who encourage you to grow and who you encourage to grow
with whom you can share meals and outings and laughter,
with whom you can be your best and most true self.
May you be there for them when they need you
and may you ask them to be there for you.
May you learn the joy of solitude, of deep time alone.
May you find things you enjoy doing by yourself.
May you kindly search and know your self as good.
May you forgive yourself and others if you can. Be gentle.
May you nurture your soul, spirit, your deepest being.
May you love yourself with all of the wonder that is you.
May love find its way to you, and you to it. Amen
As someone who was surprised by the joy of finding someone wonderful and re-marrying a couple years ago, I also remembering that married life requires a lot of adjusting and compromising - “A noble daring” as Dryden said.
Here is a blessing I wrote for a ritual I use in weddings - I have the partners pour water from vessels representing their individual lives into a bowl representing their shared life. I bless the water and give it back to them, saying to use it to bless one another, their homes, any children they might have - and to keep adding to it so that it never dries up.
I invite those of you who are in committed relationships to stand to receive this blessing - if your partners are here, join hands if you wish.
Spirit of Love that flows through all things, within and around us, medium of our days, bless these committed partners
May they remember the wisdom of water, that life will have its falls, sometimes like a mountain stream tumbling over round stones, sometimes like threads of rain spun from clouds, sometimes in breath-taking cascades.
May they remember the wisdom of water, that no fall is forever, that each ends in contact with earth. May they remember that they are earth to each other, and can cushion one other’s falls. May they remember that when they both fall at the same time, their friends gathered here, will serve as ground to them, to cushion them both.
May they remember the wisdom of water, that they will each time rise again, sometimes like mist breathed from neighborhoods of trees, sometimes like a geyser shouting from the earth, sometimes as imperceptibly as tiny droplets evaporating from the surface of the sea.
Spirit of Life and Loving, may you be with them, as they continue to move together through their years, nourish them in the dry times and flow into them abundances of patience and compassion. May it be so. Amen.
Go deeper than love, for the soul has greater depths,
love is like the grass, but the heart is deep wild rock
molten, yet dense and permanent.
Go down to your deep old heart, and lose sight of yourself.
And lose sight of me, the me whom you turbulently loved.
Let us lose sight of ourselves, and break the mirrors.
For the fierce curve of our lives is moving again to the depths
out of sight, in the deep living heart.
There are many different types of spirituality. For some of us ritual, prayer, and meditation are spiritual practices - or walking in nature, singing, playing music, or doing something creative. For some of us social action is a spiritual practice. For some of us, thoughts and ideas cause a sense of wonder - learning new things is part of this spirituality.
For instance, I was listening to an interview on Krista Tippett's public radio program "On Being." She was talking with a Jesuit monk who is also an astronomer, Brother Guy Consalmagno. He was talking about all the ways God can show us love. As an example, he told a story about how one rainy day his mother played rummy with him - not because she loved card games but as a way of showing her love for him. He says that he believes one way God shows love for us is providing us with a universe full of interesting things for us to discover. I loved that idea, and it made me smile for days.
I’m going to frame that I have to say about going deeper than love using the work of anthropologists - scientists who study human culture as it evolves. Their ideas provoke a sense of wonder in me. And of course, since we evolve as human beings, so do our relationships. Most of the science here comes from “On Being,” When it comes to love, Krista Tippett quotes anthropologist Margaret Meade as saying that everyone should have three marriages, even if they’re all to the same person. The first marriage for romantic love - making whoopee, the second marriage is for family love - raising children or creating other types of family, and the third marriage is for companionship.
Anthropologist and brain scientist Helen Fisher studies the first phase of romantic love. She says “falling in love” evolved to help us overlook the faults of a prospective mate so that mating can actually occur. For some couples this leads to biological children and the species continuing. Helen Fisher says this stage of romantic love is strong enough to cause people to move, to leave behind their families, learn new languages (David Sedaris comes to mind).
However, as we all probably have experienced, this stage wears off. Helen Fisher says, in evolutionary terms, this is because it takes a lot of energy. If the relationship is able to evolve to include making family together, that’s one way you begin to go deeper than romantic love.
Learning to share responsibility, to work together, to back each other up - maturing together - you can learn a lot about and from one another. This can not only deepen and strengthen not only your relationship, it can also broaden your heart and your spiritual life
Now for some people when the falling in love stage wears off the relationship ends. Fisher says romantic relationships have been ending for at least 4 million years. In hunter-gatherer times one partner would simply pick up and leave, which was not such a big deal because the remaining parents lived in networks of interdependent relationships - all sorts of family and friends - who would help to raise any children from that union. She sees today’s problem not as divorce but as the loss of local community to support single parents.
However, Fisher says there’s a new type of family community developing that she calls “associations.” These are groups of friends and acquaintances, sort of like this congregation. People in these associations support one another, and the single people among them have a long time to check each other out, before they decide to get involved. That’s a good thing because you really get to know who the person is. Plus you have those interdependent relationships to support them in your relationship. Win-win.
This is even happening among older adults, who are entering into the companionship stage of relationship. Another anthropologist, Mary Catherine Bateson calls this stage “Active Wisdom.” She has a newish book about composing your life in this second phase of adulthood, which I’ll talk about in a service later this year.
For now, let me share what she has to say about relationships. Even though each of her parents, Margaret Meade and Gregory Bateson, had three marriages to different people, Mary Catherine Bateson has managed to have all three with one person - over 55 years of marriage.
“I’m working on a book, the title of which is Love Across Difference. And central to the thinking in that book is that love depends on a recognition of something in common, and the valuing of a difference. You don’t want someone just like yourself. You want someone enough like yourself so that you can learn new things from them.”
In another place in her interview, Mary Catherine Bateson says,
“… we think of marriage as a relationship between two mature people, hopefully, who love each other and settle in to constancy and continuity. And in fact, those two people are growing and changing all the time. I mean, just as you have to keep learning your infant from week to week because the infant is growing and discovering things, marriage requires a constant rhythm of adaptation between two people who are changing.”
Going deeper than love requires adaptation. Evolution. These adaptations and evolutions are about emotional growth, they can involve intellectual growth, and they can also involve inspiring one another to grow spiritually. And this, all of this, takes you deeper than love.
In what Mary Catherine Bateson says I hear ways we can apply our seven Unitarian Universalist principles to deepening spiritually in our relationships. Valuing the difference between you and another involves affirming and promoting the inherent worth and dignity of the other, as in the first principle. Appreciating their worth and dignity is both broader and deeper than love.
Accepting one another and encouraging each other to spiritual growth fits with our third principle. Acceptance and encouragement take you deeper than the first blushes of love and can be part of a truly fulfilling, well-rounded relationship.
If together you search for truth and meaning, as in our fourth principle, your love will evolve even more deeply. In these searches for truth and meaning, each partner must be free to find their own path, while still being responsible to the relationship. Too much freedom can dissolve the relationship. Too much responsibility can bind it.
Finally, I hear a lot about interdependence in what both Bateson and Fisher say. Interdependence is the cornerstone of our seventh principle. I hear in their reflection the evolutionary interdependence of the partners and their shared interdependence within a community of interconnected relationsships, or in an association of friends and/or family such as a congregation.
All of these are ways of have a faith-filled relationship in our tradition - appreciating and affirming your similarities and differences, accepting each other and encouraging each other to grow spiritually, searching for truth and meaning in ways both free and responsible, and becoming interdependent with one another as well as a network of friends.
Going deeper than love is the work of many years - whether it is in a family, friendship, or romantic relationship. In a sense, it means composing a life together, to paraphrase Mary Catherine Bateson’s most famous work. Going deeper than love requires commitment to growing together in ways that involve all of who we are. And that growth is part of the fulfilled and fulfilling life.
In composing a life together, each plays different tunes at different times, sometimes harmonizing and sometimes discordant, but always evolving, evolving, deeper than love. May your relationships grow in this way, bringing you challenge and joy throughout your life.