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Fighting with the wife?

Shiva, did you ever fight with your wife? - Anonymous

I certainly did! Even in a perfect marriage like My own, it is normal for people who love each other to have disagreements, and even to fight. What makes a marriage (or friendship) perfect is not the harmony of the spouses, but their practice of love. Love is the way in which each spouse perfects themselves - through perfecting each other.

Yoga is not painless. Love is not harmonious. Neither is living with someone else. Whether you are living closely with your spouse, your siblings or cousins, with friends, you should not expect harmony. Sharing a house is difficult, sharing activities and schedules is difficult, sharing money is difficult. Learning how to disagree, how to work together to come to a solution, learning to share, to coexist, to forgive, to help each other grow - cohabitation is a necessary component of training and practice in Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sannyasa. It is by learning how to coexist with others that we learn to coexist with our self.

My Brother, Vishnu, always had helpful advice. A person can get angry or happy or sad or anxious or feel any number of things - just because of biological functions of the brain and body, and not in response to the environment. Their feelings are always changing - even if their environment doesn't. Acting on those feelings is a mistake: feelings can make a friend appear like an enemy, or an enemy appear like a friend; they can make big things seem small, or small things seem big. It is never good advice to make a large purchase when emotional. He said form is always changing, too: even from one moment to another, a person's nature can change. So it is a mistake to react to the form of a person. Even if they are irrational or even hateful right now, this will change. Even things are always changing form - what pot has been made that won't one day break? Even your body changes. There is nothing with form, nothing that you can see, taste, smell, hear, or touch that is truly yours; you are not these things, they do not make you who you are. You are not what you do, or feel, or think. Neither is anyone else. Remembering this helps remove possessiveness, and is good advice for preventing fights. Why would a person fight over what is not theirs? Similarly, you could remember things are shared - they are not wholly your own.

That someone has a different way of doing things, is messy or tidy, loud or quiet, does not make them right or wrong. Or you right or wrong. You might have a lot to learn - as they do. Or both of you do. Consider the matter carefully with them, remember the goals of your training, of your cohabitation, of your friendship and love and try to find a solution that makes the best sense. Remain dedicated to finding the best solution, objectively, even if it is not one which makes you happy. For example, in the yoga of dishwashing, there is a "right" and a "wrong" way to load the dishwasher, but there is also a lot of "grey" which is neither right nor wrong, or partially right and wrong. The goal is to get better at loading the dishwasher. This permits perfection. The goal is not perfection.

If one or both of you has to change the way you habitually do things, be patient, supportive and helpful. Habits change slowly. Be friendly, and help your friend become the better person they want to be. Use the moment to grow toward your own goals. Begin the discussion with love and respect and end it with harmony.

But sometimes a fight becomes physical. Or one of the spouses or friends suffers an injury or mental illness which makes them physically harm the other spouse.

My wife suffered from something very similar to Post Traumatic Stress. She loved Me dearly. The trouble started after She defended me from my enemies in battle: I had been overcome, and out of love She rushed to My defense. But in the war She became so enraged, and quite insane. She wore the heads of Her slain enemies about her neck, a skirt made of severed arms, and covered herself in gore; lighting fire to everything, She herself was scorched. She delighted in destruction! And even after all our enemies were conquered, She was so angry, She grew paranoid and violent; she saw enemies everywhere! She began to destroy everything! And even hurt Herself! Everyone was terrified of Her - because I was the strongest, and Her husband, I was asked to restrain Her. Yet I knew She was stronger than Me; only She could restrain Herself. But She was destroying everything She cared for, the entire world. So I had to do what could be done.

I approached her, and found She was ready to kill Me, as well - Me, Her true love, the one She had just saved! In Her insanity, She attacked Me. It was a difficult fight: She was well armed, and a trained fighter. At first, I blocked all Her blows. Then, coming close to Her, I held Her in My arms; in that embrace, I tried to remind Her who I was, I tried to hold Her still... and for a moment, She would seem to collect Herself - yet the instant I loosened by grip, She would again attack Me. She struck Me and hurt Me in so many ways. We strove for what seemed an eternity; it was misery itself. She did not want to hurt Me, and I did not want to hurt Her; neither of us wanted to strive against the other - but She was not in control of Herself. She was in a rage.

After some time I had to accept the fact that war left Her utterly insane. Even today, you may know soldiers who do not come back from war the same way they left, or even wholly in their minds. Post traumatic stress can destroy a person. She had been similarly injured by Her war. She felt no grief at the hurt she caused Me, or the world. I was not insane, and so I did feel grief. This grief weakened me more and more. Eventually, She was so much stronger than Me. Her fury grew as My weakness became evident: She was relying on Me to restrain Her. I persisted; but I knew that I would be destroyed by Her before much longer. Everyone urged me to hurt Her in self-defense - but I knew to do so would be to hurt Myself. I was urged to kill Her in self-defense, in defense of the world. But I knew if I had killed Her I would myself die; we shared but one heart. But then I understood - and to save the world from Her destruction, I laid down before Her, permitted Her to kill Me - and thus bring about Her own destruction.

I laid Myself down before Her altar in supreme sacrifice. She raised Her sword for the victory blow, and then saw I was weeping like a baby - for Her impending death, grieving for our love. And at that moment, She shared my grief. She threw down all Her weapons and wept with Me.

We held each other for a long time. She was scorched from battle, even Her hair was singed. I held Her in both hands and smiled, then laughed. She asked what I was laughing at? I pointed at her blackened skin, and in the emotional moment could only say "Kali!" The word encompassed the "black" color of Her skin, the "grief" we both shared, the "one" heart we shared, the "strife" and "war" we had just shared, but it also carried the derogatory connotation of "imperfection," and "ugly."

She looked at herself and saw the filth that covered Her - not only the gore from Her war, but My own blood and tears. She saw where She had hurt Herself. She did not also laugh. She was horrified, and desired to purify Herself. If I could have given Her that grace, I would have: but no one can escape the consequences of their actions, good or bad. I forgave Her, and urged Her to forgive Herself: She had been out of Her mind and not responsible for Her actions. Everyone - every being, even non-beings like She and I - makes mistakes. The important thing was to recover, and do better. What was past could not be undone, but the future lay ahead. This did not comfort her; She was overcome by regret, and felt too weak to do better. So She wept.

I tried to comfort Her. She would not be comforted: She felt like she still had enemies to slay. Already, She felt the insanity growing again. I urged her to forgive Her enemies. But She was becoming gripped by insanity again, and could not. She and I began to struggle again, but now I felt no grief. I defended Myself. My great strength prevented Her aggression from hurting Me - or the world. And woke Her to Her own weakness. When she regained Her mind and the fit had passed, She understood how the war had wounded Her. She understood at that moment She could no longer be my Wife, or my friend, nor be near anything She loved; She could perform no duty. She had no reason to live. She vowed She would destroy Herself upon my altar, for She had become My enemy, Her own enemy. Death was better than that incurable injury which caused so much distress to Her and those who cared for Her.

Remembering when She had burned herself upon my altar in the form of Sati, I held her close and wept. And as we wept a river of tears, all Her Black was washed away. The Black took a hollow form and, possessed of insanity and wrath, tried to hurt Me before leaving to slay Her enemies. This was no longer Kali, no longer my wife: it was Kausiki! Hollowness and without form, pure power, without mind, heart or body, a pure selfish malice, devoid of love. No longer my wife, Kausiki left my presence. I was glad when Kausiki left. When Kausiki left, the darkness rose and before me was Gauri: the body, heart and mind underneath that shell of blackness. All that Black shell had been washed away by tears! She was radiant! But neither Kausiki nor Gauri was Kali. Kali had destroyed Herself.

Gauri stood before me; her skin as white as if She had never seen the sun in all Her life. Indeed, She had been there all along, under that Black skin. Behind all that blackness. My wife had forgotten who She truly was, but I remembered. And this grief manifested my understanding of Shakti; Shakti had taken form before Me, as Gauri. Now, Shakti was embodied in a more perfected form, as Gauri. Gauri was everything Shakti wanted to become. She embraced Me, and at that moment taught Me to let go of all the pain I still held in my heart for Sati; my profound distress from sympathy in Kali's suffering was extinguished - and I learned better wisdom.

Practicing Yoga alone is challenging enough, but when you commit to practice with a friend, yoking yourself to your love for them, you must expect great difficulty from time to time. But out of the difficulty, greater perfection is born. Your friend will help you become the better person they know you can become, the better person you want to become - if you help them become the better person they must become. As you might feel some discomfort from your usual Yogic practices, you must bear this pain too: through love, through compassion. But do not permit yourself to be injured by your friend, as this would injure them, for you share one heart.

In helping your friend become better, do not take upon yourself their pain through sympathy, but perform your duty. A surgeon must cut their patient without sympathy. But must be gentle nevertheless. You can help bring form to your friend's dream, and see your own dreams take form too - if you are willing to let go of what you presently are, what they presently are. Are you prepared to lay yourself upon your spouse's altar, as they lay themselves upon yours? In marriage, spouses are reborn through joy in love. In friendship, friends are reborn through joy in love, and over many lifetimes of rebirth find perfection through love.

Such love comes naturally, and is performed without expectation of success or fear of failure, without praise or blame, through Karma Yoga.