Reminders on how to cope with the big-red-heart-shaped-box-full-of-chocolates day and any day.
Soften your heart to what is …
My best friend of 20 years shares her birthday with that of Saint Valentine. Her birthday had always been a point of contention. Friends would have plans with their Valentines and sometimes men wouldn’t want to take her out for her birthday because it was Valentine’s Day. Before writing this, I asked her how she feels about her birthday now. Her response was, “Neutral—it is my birthday and I am full of love.” This was really nice to hear. In finding the middle path or what I sometimes like to call the Baby Bear in the Three Little Bears—not too soft, not too hard, just right—she was able to let go of the anxiety over her birthday.
Admittedly, I am a bit freakish over remembering dates and occasions. Not in a Marilu Henner kind of way with superior autobiographical memory, but above average. Of course there’s my story, your story, and then what really happened, but for this tale, we are going with my story since I am doing the writing.
Valentine’s Day can be yet another dreaded calendar holiday or not. Pressure to buy a token of admiration for someone can be daunting. What if I’m dating someone that I don’t feel “that way” about him, do I get him a gift? What if he gets me something? How you want to deal with Valentine’s Day is all perspective just like any other holiday that the masses celebrate. I used to poo-poo Valentine’s Day as a Hallmark holiday, but it turns out that Esther Howland created the first commercial Valentine’s Day cards in 1840. Huh, so it wasn’t Hallmark after all. Maybe I could soften my perspective and be neutral to February 14th like my BFF had become.
Show gratitude and give hugs, smiles or those little candy hearts …
In 1994 I actually had a Valentine and I remember for a few reasons:
1) Because Adrien Brody was my Valentine.
2) BFF was visiting Los Angeles where I lived at the time. She had a layover while travelling from Australia to NYC.
3) I moved to LA in Nov ’93 and met Adrien within weeks of settling in. He was my roommate’s friend and always crashed at our house. Some girls have all the luck and sometimes they do literally just knock on your door.
Adrien arrived at my house with a bottle of Pinot Noir and a Valentine’s Day card (he commented when he handed the wine to me that he knew I liked Pinot Noir and he was right). How thoughtful. I gave him a star shaped candle embedded with secret little charms. There was no pressure or awkwardness. Just good old fashioned fun Valentine swapping.
One doesn’t need to present a gift on Valentine’s Day or dread the day. February 14th was chosen as a day to show your love to special people in your life. I am hopeful that all who read this have at least one special person in their life, and if not make that special person yourself. You can smile randomly to people you pass, and do your best to hug someone, too. Bear hugs are great!
Be cool even when others push your buttons …
We were off to a very good Valentine’s Day celebration. A mutual friend of BFF and mine wanted to take us ladies out and his friend for dinner to celebrate the birthday. Seeing as I had a date, Adrien, I informed the friend that I already had plans and the friend said to bring along whomever I wanted. I invited both Adrien and my roommate because we had all spent the day together, and were having a good time. Six of us met up for what intended to be a festive dinner. I’d rather not relive the gory details of the evening, but let’s just say there was drama and lots of it. The mutual friend had a mean streak of jealousy, got drunk, acted out, and left in a huff. It’s probably a good thing because my Valentine and roommate wanted to set him straight, but they took the high road instead by letting him leave with out further incident.
Special days can evoke drama as we all know, especially when there are red roses and red, heart shaped, boxes filled with chocolates involved. Recognizing all that you have albeit love from a partner, friend or family, is still LOVE. I think my BFF discovered some peace of mind when she surrendered to what is … her birthday is on the same day as St. Valentine. This is something she cannot change so there’s no point in fretting and wishing it to be otherwise. You can relate this philosophy to so many other “problems” we create for ourselves. If you really have a look at your “problem” chances are you are the one who gave yourself the “problem” to begin with. If you slow down enough to see this for yourself (via mind body practices) or slow down enough so that hopefully a really great friend (who does mind body practices) can help you see that you pretty much are the solution to your problems, then your will world shift.
If nothing else live for love …
Pardon me, but my yogini is showing. Connect with the love and light in you that is just pleading to be let loose. Like dancing when no one is watching or singing at the top of your lungs out of key and all. You feel good. You laugh and shine. Suddenly you are a Valentine.
In December I read Jesus, I Love Jews By Angela Raines. I really liked her article and for those of you who read it you may recall that Mr. Brody was listed as the “Bad News Jew” for not being associated with any known eco causes and for having owned a hummer. I wish I could shed some insider light on this, but it was many, many, oh so many year ago that we frolicked. When I knew him, he drove a brown classic Caddie. Maybe not so good with gas, but does that count as vintage and recycling? I realize I am grasping at straws, and Raines really wanted to give him props, but couldn’t find the support. Adrien was very young when we were hanging out and reflecting on my own journey into having some sort of relationship with the universe, I think I had only one yoga mat at the time and it stayed in my closet mostly. I certainly have grown leaps and bounds in the past 17 years. Chances are he has, too. Let’s keep our eyes peeled to see if Adrien gets some green/eco causes on his bamboo plate. He is a good egg.
Take it to heart … metta meditation practice
Metta also known as maitri, translates to “loving kindness”. Why not try a 10 minute heart opening practice for Valentine’s Day?
1) Carve out 10 minutes of your day where you can sit and be still. You may sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, spine upright or sit on cushions on the floor if you are able to support your spine and its natural curves. The photo at the top of the red heart is my meditation cushion. You may want to record these instructions to listen to as you are settling into your “seat”.
2) I suggest the app Zen Timer. It has numerous gong sounds, settling in time, journal option, and if you like intermittent gongs during your sit you can program that option.
3) Once sitting, start your timer and use the delay bell setting. Rest the hands on the thighs. Mentally scan your body and feel its presence. Where your legs are. How your seat feels. Shoulders relaxed. Skin on the forehead without expression. Space between the top jaw and bottom jaw. You are coming into the present moment.
4) Any time during your sit, if it feels natural, you may bring a hand to your heart. We feel emotions in our solar plexus where the heart beats, and also in our belly, or gut instinct. They reside very close to each other in our bodies.
5) I use these four thoughts for metta medition:
May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I be safe
May I live with ease
Focus the mind on the first thought, “May I be happy” for a couple of minutes. Then let that thought go and focus on the second thought, etc. The time will go way faster that you ever imagined. If you can set aside more than 10 minutes, the next step is after you have wished loving kindness for yourself, choose a loved one to wish metta thoughts to. Eg: May you (fill in the name) be happy, may you be healthy, etc.
Thoughts other than what you are focusing on will arise. When this happens, and it will, as you notice the thought label it thinking and let it go. Gently take your mind back to the phrase you were focusing on. Please be light with the mind voice and kind to your self. Flogging is not part of the practice.
6) When the gong chimes, you may like to acknowledge your practice by bringing the hands together at the heart and bowing.
7) That’s it!
If you are interesting in learning more about meditation, I suggest finding a teacher or a mentor. The Interdependence Project based in NYC, has chapters throughout the country and pod casts accessible to all!