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Joyce and Barry Vissell

Lovers from Before
by Barry and Joyce Vissell


"Lovers do not meet somewhere along the way.
They’re in each other’s hearts from the beginning.

The relationship between Barry and me seemed to begin before we met at age eighteen. It had been one of the main themes of my childhood play and fantasy: to reunite with my beloved. By the time we met, it felt like we had been in love our whole lives.

Meant to Be by Joyce and Barry Vissell

I remember as a child being sent to my room when I was crying or upset. Perhaps my parents were trying to understand my feelings, but in my young mind and heart I felt alone. I remember so clearly how, during one of those times, I heard an inner voice speak to me. I had never had this experience before and listened carefully to the message. It told me that when I was grown, I would meet a man who would understand my feelings, that I would recognize him as a tall, dark-haired doctor who would become my best friend. From early childhood, I trusted this message which came to me over and over again whenever I felt that no one understood me.

Barry and I found each other in a clumsy, youthful way. Our young hearts were hardly ready for the power of our connection, but our first kiss revealed a love that seemed to have existed for an eternity. Barry, my tall, skinny, awkward eighteen-year-old boyfriend, really seemed to be my beloved for all time past and all time to come. We had found each other and yet couldn’t fully comprehend the blessing. I feel so much gratitude to have found Barry so early in life and to still be living with him.

I remember, when I met Barry during my first year in college, the surge of energy that shot through me when he told me he was a pre-medical student. We eyed each other with mixed feelings. Neither one of us felt particularly attracted to the other’s appearance, yet we could not deny an energy that flowed between us.

Two days after we first met, we had our first date to see a movie. We hurried back to my college dorm to meet the curfew time. Mrs. Peabody, the elderly dorm mother, was waiting by the glass door.

"You have two minutes to get inside," she snapped at me and continued to peer through the glass.

Oblivious of Mrs. Peabody’s stern observation, we kissed for the first time. In that moment, a door to another world flew open and it was as if we recognized one another. Standing in a daze, I heard Mrs. Peabody open the door. She pulled me inside and shut the door on Barry. That kiss changed my life forever.

Many religions hold sacred the belief that lovers have known each other before coming into this world, and will know each other again — that our loving has a purpose far beyond the limitations of our own understanding.

Over the years, the following image has often come to me, so vivid I believe it must be a memory: I can remember being in a circle of many souls. Barry and I are apart from each other. There is a great love and union among all of these souls. We are under the guidance of a great light and spiritual energy, and are preparing to come to earth. Each one is being given an assignment or gift to give while on earth. Each is called upon and asked to spread the light and love of God in various ways. Barry and I are called up simultaneously and asked to work together to help bring more light into human relationships. We feel deep love for each other and for our Creator. Our purpose on earth is blessed by the light, and we are given one instruction: Love one another completely and let that love overflow to others in healing and guidance. There are other souls given the same assignment. We know that all the help we need will come from our contact with the light.

Barry and I feel this light is present in all heart connections. We understand the highest work we can do is to love one another completely, but there are times when our egos cringe at having to be together. Each of us has had moments when we have wanted to give up on our relationship and just be alone. We also have lessons to learn and personalities which sometimes clash and cause each other pain. We have had to do much work on our relationship and have much more to do. Sometimes we both wish our relationship could be a little easier. As with many people, our minds seek an easy relationship. Our hearts, which hold the vision of our purpose together, seek to be with someone who will help us on our spiritual journey, no matter how difficult.

Light in the Mirror by Barry and Joyce Vissell

The lesson for us then, was this: when looking for your spiritual partner, for the relationship that has already been blessed in "heaven," keep your heart open. Your partner may not appear to be what your mind thinks it wants. You may be in for a big surprise! If you are listening in your heart, you will recognize your partner. If you listen to your head about what you want, you may miss this special person altogether.

After our first kiss, Barry and I set out to get to know each other. We figured out a way to avoid the scrutiny of Mrs. Peabody. We met in the cafeteria and I came back to my room through the basement. We realized we were breaking the rules, but there was just too much to talk about. Barry told me all the most embarrassing, shameful and confusing times of his life, all in our second conversation! There was a comfort in talking to one another that neither of us had ever experienced. A pressure was released as we shared everything that had happened in the eighteen years we had been on earth. Everything was met with love and acceptance. We felt so much at home.

Then came the evening Barry told me he was Jewish. It was such a shock! I had assumed he was Protestant like me, going to Hartwick College, a small Protestant school. He had assumed that my last name, Wollenberg, was Jewish. This revelation saddened us and brought us to the realization that we could never marry. We would have to "just be friends." Before, our hearts were opening in love with each other. Now, with the news of our different religions, our minds began to take over to protect ourselves from the seemingly inevitable loss. We each felt we could never marry outside our religion. At that time, in 1964, it seemed an insurmountable obstacle. Our hearts even then, felt they had found the perfect spiritual partner. Our minds, however, were already rejecting each other because of our different religions. Still, our lips kept finding their way together and thus helped to bring us back to the awareness of our spiritual union and purpose together.

The first four years of our relationship were a bittersweet mixture of love and confusion. Between the many attempts to free ourselves from each other, there was, nevertheless, a deepening of love and respect — and the powerful physical passion of our youth. Attempts to rid ourselves of each other were as useless as trying to change our own reflections in the mirror. So we kept returning to the embrace of lovers.

Realizing how difficult it would be to separate from one another, our scheming minds next planned strategies to change the other to fit our own picture of the perfect partner. However, we were (and are) both much too stubborn, and any effort to change the other was met with resistance and even hostility. Finally, there was one thing left to do. We gave up our minds’ idea of how the other should change. Fortunately for us, our hearts won over our minds. Barry and I accepted each other, differences and all, and were married December 21, 1968. We feel our wedding was simply a reenactment of the union in my heavenly memories. Though we were in the early stages of spiritual awakening, we each felt a strong presence of light blessing us. The tears in our eyes during the ceremony seemed to wash away the veil that hid the deep memory of our prior union and blessing.

We are now devoted to remembering our connection and serving others through that love. We have a distance to go and the dedication to go there. Each time someone is helped by our words or by our work, it helps us more strongly to remember our purpose. Each time our relationship becomes bogged down yet we break through to renewed love, we realize we are giving a gift to others. Our love for one another and for the "assignment" we have been given is the top priority in our lives. We believe in the beauty of all relationships and in the great light that brings two souls together.

If, in your heart, there is a desire to have a spiritual partner, then you are feeling what is already in your destiny, what is already in a plan bigger than anything your mind can conceive. You may find this person when you are young, or you may find him or her later in life when perhaps you have had several other relationships. Whenever you find this person, treasure him or her with all your heart. This soul mirror has been given to you to help you fulfill your purpose on earth. Loving this one through both the easy and the difficult times will bring you fulfillment and love at the deepest level of your being.

"Lord, you are my lover, my longing, my flowing stream,
my sun, and I am your reflection.
—Mechtild of Magdeburg

© Copyright 2002. All Rights Reserved. 
Excerpted from "Light in the Mirror: A New Way to Understand Relationships" by Joyce Vissell, RN, MS and Barry Vissell, MD. 

The Heart's Wisdom by Joyce and Barry Vissell                The Shared Heart by Barry and Joyce Vissell

Joyce and Barry Vissell
Joyce and Barry Vissell have been a couple since 1964.  A nurse and medical doctor/psychiatrist, their main interest since 1972 has been counseling and teaching.  As a result of the interest in their books, they travel internationally, conducting talks and workshops on relationship, parenting and personal growth.  They are the founders and directors of the Shared Heart Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to relationship and family life as a spiritual path.  Joyce and Barry Vissell write a monthly column, "New Dimensions of Relationship," for newspapers and magazines worldwide.  It covers many timely topics about relationship and spirituality that have not been addressed in thier books.  They live with their three children, Rami,  Mira, and John Nuriel, four golden retrievers, four cats, and one horse at their home and center on a hilltop near Santa Cruz, California, where they counsel individuals and couples and offer classes, workshops, and training programs.

The Shared Heart Foundation
P.O. Bo 2140, Aptos, California 95001


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