In yoga, there are these two words, Sukkah and Dukkah. They are one of my favorite things in Yoga. (You will learn I have a lot of favorite things in yoga philosophy, but this is truly one of my top five.)  Sukkah is often said to be the joy, and dukkah the suffering. But I have found those definitions limited and not fully encompassing of their true birthright and power. The really juicy stuff is in a simplified version of what Amy Weintraub gave years ago in her book Yoga for Depression: Sukkah as open space and Dukkah as closed space. I really value this because it shows me that it is not just that the shitty stuff (dukkah – sounds like cow dung doesn’t it?) is contrasted with the joyful fun stuff.  Rather, it also lets me ask: What is creating open space in my life and what is closing me down? What is open in my body and what is closed down in my body? What creates open communication, honesty, authenticity, and what closes it down? I do not believe we need to have suffering to have joy. But they are part of life and sometimes what we perceive as suffering is just a closed space waiting for the light of awareness to shine upon it, to bring us the soulful joyful experiences and openness.  

So how do I apply this to divorce, dissolution, transition? Ugh. Ick. Geez. Of course our mind can go to a lot of closed thinking – how am I going to survive on a yoga teachers salary (uh.. not going to survive on it with two kids)? How do I manage carpools, kids activities, household repairs, and even just eating well and exercise? Another way to understand this is: Where do we close down in our thinking and are no longer open to opportunities or solutions? Is there something to clean out or pull out of that dark, dingy space of suffering, that can bring about better options? Can I stand in the sticky, grimy parts long enough to see the sukkah, the open space underneath?   This is not a simple case of the ‘grass is greener’ because trust me, I have done my fair share of fantasizing about how I might get out of playing in the icky dukkah stuff. It is also not the case of just fast forwarding to the parts where things are happier. Instead, it is in the muddy waters we see the lotus flower; it is in the damp, clay soil, when digging for weeds that we see the richness of the earth and springing of new growth. So, hang on tight, come with me on my journey and lets see what yoga guides us toward in this sukkah and dukkah duality (or non-duality depending on how you see it).   


In the depths of the dukkah is the confrontation of all the things many of us would rather avoid – all that conflict of self, of others, of life. All the things we may have ignored. And maybe that is why I don’t mind playing in the dung – the dukkah of it all. Because in the fertilizer of the dukkah lies the earth that things can grow. So, while we all have our parts in a marriage dissolving, don’t regret or wish we had shyed away from any of it.  There are wishes we may have and I have heard from others such as: 1. Placing bigger and better boundaries up sooner (or walking away sooner).  2. Seeing that the person next to us, may not actually know themselves as well as we think, or as well as they think they do.   3.When you have a gut reaction, that things are amiss, don’t doubt yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself either or feel guilty about the feeling or about someone else’s actions. They make choices, just like you do. 4. You need to be heard. Finding a kind way to do this of course counts, but you must express your feelings. Don’t bottle those suckers inside!  Although there is work to be done on being clear in our feelings without needing to be too loud, do question the reason you are louder – is it because you are not being heard? If so, you should question why that is. (See inset below on vishuddah) 

Vishuddah chakra teaches us that expressing ourselves genuinely is imperative for growth and balance. If we shut off our voice, what are we left with? We push and shove all of it down. Literately down..down into the lower chakras, our heart chakra is wounded. And not just the heart chakra of relationships but also the heart of ourselves – our unconditional love for ourselves, respect and admiration for creating boundaries, being open and flexible. And not dampening who we are, but rather, practicing ahmisa for ourselves and others, compassion for our path, their path.  

The idyllic stage of dissolving a marriage, is when you both agree to it, knowing it’s the ‘right’ thing and then you dream  up how it is going to look. Ok, I don’t really mean ‘dream up’ but there is some work to be done in what you envision it looking like. I speak of this from the perspective of having a family and kids because if the kids were not involved, we would have been divorced years ago. But what choices you both make, in the marriage and in the dissolution, affects them directly. This idyllic stage is when you fantasize, in our case, about how we would keep the house the same for the kids sake, and then the other parent would come and ‘help’ out. Well…. when it comes to the practical side of that, this is when the fantasy land gets soaked from the crashing of the waves of reality. All the problems in the marriage do not magically go away when you start deciding you can work together for a more seamless dissolution of the marriage. (We even contacted ‘collaborative divorce lawyers’ – two lawyers, two former spouses, conversing together, avoiding litigation, for one, somewhat amicable, divorce. This was to help support our collaborative idea of making this work for the family side of things.) But how does that work? All those problems are still there – reliability, different ideals, frustration, exhaustion, not to mention the resentment that may still be festering. While the intention is to be an easy, comfortable riding of the waves, comes the reality of divorce once again. The Sukkah and Dukkah and the crashing of the waves….the key is to keep the door open for the sweet stuff, for the sukkah. For the little joys or moments when you two are on the same page, or when there is a sweet moment, that your daughter says ‘you are a good momma’ and she really means it, and you really feel it. Or when you find yourself picking yourself up from the floor of anguish, and know that you are indeed strong enough to get back up, and can get through hard stuff. Or that final moment of the day, when you can give yourself a few minutes to rest your eyes, or enjoy the sweetness of the moon, and the peace of standing right by yourself, grounded and with grace, knowing yourself a little better than you did the day before, and continuing on the path as best you can moment to moment. This is where sukkah and dukkah melt into one. Can we hold both at once? 

Rai Lowe