What roles do ritual and symbolism play in our lives? How important are these to our understanding of ourselves and the world? More importantly, do we need to date and marry someone from our own culture to find love and meaning?
When a friend of mine met her now husband, he made an immediate effort to learn about her family and culture, and she his, which only deepened the love they discovered they felt for one another. She is Indian and Hindu, although raised in Atlanta, and her husband is Jewish/Catholic. They’ve been married since only last weekend, and in fact, I’ve just returned from Atlanta where I attended their ceremonies.
Yes, that’s right, they held two, both very similar in values.
Even the Mandap and the Chuppah (wedding canopies) have a similar meaning and purpose. Such a beautiful reminder that no matter where our families come from or where in the world our journey begins, our souls are the same.
We Travel Together
It was a beautiful day and my first experience with an Hindu ceremony, the first part, which was followed by a traditional Jewish ceremony. The Hindu wedding is a traditional Vedic ceremony that has existed for nearly 6,000 years. The ceremony is typically performed by family and friends to signify the communion between the two families. There are beautiful rituals throughout. For example, the mother of the bride greets the groom (the Pokhavum), and the (Hasta Melap) in which the bride’s hand is placed on the right hand of the groom as they recite sacred verses promising to love, cherish and protect each other. A knot is then tied between them, symbolizing the bond of marriage and everlasting relationship.
I think all too often, we look toward marriage as the end of our problems, and a destination rather than a journey. Our journey continues throughout or lives, but after we marry we get to walk it with the one we love. One of the incredible moments from the Jewish ceremony was the Kiddush (Blessing Over the Wine), which represents this — that throughout life, the couple will experience both love and sorrow, but always together.
A similar meaning is conveyed at the conclusion of the Hindu ceremony, by the Sapta Padi (The Seven Steps). This inspired what I’m writing today, because of the beautiful symbolism it offers. Like the Kiddush, this ritual represents the journey each couple takes through life together.
Here are the seven steps:
1. Cherish each other in sickness and in health, in happiness and in sorrow
2. Love, provide, and pray for each other’s families
3. Be thoughtful in action and in word
4. Pray for prosperity in spiritual wealth
5. Live in harmony with nature
6. Share joys and sorrows with each other
7. Remain true friends for life
Here’s why this is important, even if you are single…
Soul + Mates
I have clients from all over the world. I’m working with a brilliant doctor from India, an African American surgeon, a Persian lawyer. Interestingly, these men have similar tastes in women, with common values and life goals.
When asked in profiles or in my meetings, most men and women will shy away from dating anyone outside of their culture, before even considering why they’re hesitant. Their thinking is that the cultures are “too different” or that there’s “too much of a bridge to cross.” What I’ve found, though, is that it’s really just the fear of the unknown that is interfering.
My friend who got married last weekend was open to someone she could have easily overlooked if she had been focused only on meeting a man from her own culture and religious background. And her now husband brought a learning spirit and developed an appreciation for her culture, because he understood it’s part of how she became the person she is today, the one he was falling in love with. They embraced each other’s cultures, hence their beautiful ceremonies.
If you look at the Seven Steps, couldn’t this be many people? People from different cultures or religions? With whom can you walk forward, through the seven steps on a shared path?
The Universal Language
In my single journey, I found myself open to different cultures and races as I felt it expanded my universe and way of thinking. Without knowing it, I had my Seven Steps in mind while making my relationship choices, which always kept me true to myself and on my path rather than distracted by what doesn’t matter, or only enriches.
Open your eyes, mind and heart to the person who celebrates you and your culture, not just the people who share your own. And be ready yourself to respond in kind, exploring the world, it’s rituals and traditions with those you might not have considered in the past. Go for character, love, and dedication above all else, and you will find the man who is destined for you.
I would be honored to hear your stories of combining love and culture in your own relationships. What has worked? Where have you seen similarities or even difficulties? Today is a great day to share!