Relationship Bootcamp Week 5
“Love doesn’t sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all of the time, made new.” ~Ursula K. LeGuin
Almost anyone can fall in love; our biological imperative to mate kicks in opening our hearts and flooding our nervous system with the euphoric experience of idealized connection. In these early moments of love’s embrace, we experience love viscerally. Every exchange is charged with the energy of passionate recognition and the deep cellular relief of being embraced just as we are. Everyone who has fallen out of love knows how far the fall is. It is easy to become jaded in that challenging transition to loving someone, which doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the sweet fall. Keeping love going is an endurance sport.
The transition to a long-term loving relationship is often prematurely ended because we don’t realize that the earlier explosion of loving connection is not ended, it is actually stored within us. Because most of us never learn much about how to consciously receive and transmute the love they experience, we mistakenly believe that when our loving feelings fade with someone, the love is gone. A corollary misunderstanding is that we are only being loved right in the moment of the exchange.
Often we feel the love of a hug or the warm words of support through a phone call or even a sweet text message. Because we are not well practiced at receiving and savoring loving experience, allowing it to fill us up like honey in a vessel, we experience the love dissipating before our eyes.
More painful still is the fact that many loving acts coming towards us everyday are not received at all. We don’t understand the language the love is spoken in or we judge the validity or truth of it. We question the intention of those loving us or we refuse to believe we are worthy of love at all. I witness this every day, this unwillingness to be loved that permeates our culture like a virus. If we cannot believe we are worthy of love, even the most loving acts don’t have a chance to penetrate us and do their most powerful work, which is not in the exchange but in the exquisite transformative act of holding love inside of us.
Love is actually a renewable resource that can be called upon during challenging emotional times to buoy us and help us find solid ground again. The idea that the love we have exchanged within our intimacies ever ends is the most poisonous cultural myth we perpetuate.
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Jon and Stacey had met in high school. He knew he loved her for months before she would look at him. The beginning was rocky- Jon had never felt this way before about any girl and it was so unnerving that he got angry and sullen when she said small insensitive things or forgot to meet him. But there was something real between them, so real that when it came time to decide what to do about college, Jon decided to go to the local university instead of taking off as he always thought he would. Things changed for him in the dorm though and he couldn’t quite keep up the time and energy that Stacy still wanted. They broke up in his first year, not because he didn’t love her; she knew that. He just needed time. Still, whenever either of them was sad or sick or low, the first one they would call was each other. Their friendship dug deep into the love they had built throughout high school together.
By the end of his first year, Jon realized that all the partying and new girls didn’t amount to much compared with how strong and good he felt with Stacy. Their renewed love relationship grew even more from their time as just friends. Annoying as Stacy could be with her endless shopping days or thoughtless remarks, Jon could see how much their time together changed things inside of him. He bent further than he ever thought he could to listen to her and have her hear him.
Stacy was changing though. She was growing up and leaving high school now, too. She wanted to see the world, but mostly she wanted to find herself. She loved Jon more than she thought she could love anyone, but she needed time now, too. When Jon realized how serious she was about leaving after all the work they had been through, his heart broke. He questioned everything between him and Stacy. He couldn’t believe she wouldn’t want to stay here, with him. All the love that he had relied on seemed like nothing but air slipping out of him.
Stacy reached out to him, but he couldn’t respond. He couldn’t love her and let her go. But worst of all he couldn’t feel any of the love that had grown so rich and deep in him.
“It was a waste of time, all these years with you….” he said one late afternoon. Stacy was heartbroken, too. How could this first true love ever be a waste of time?
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Consider a story of love that ended badly in your own life. What were the long term benefits of that loving relationship? In what ways did the love you felt in the relationship work inside of you and change you? Did you become kinder, more generous with others? With yourself?
Close your eyes and picture a beautiful container inside of you, filling your chest or pelvic region, or both. Check to see if the container has any cracks or holes. If so, shore them up. Imagine yourself as a container that is love worthy. Now remember some kindness or physical affection you experienced and imagine putting that experience and all of the warmth you felt into that container. Sit quietly with your own love. Feel the movement of love inside of you. Each day, retrieve another moment of feeling loved and store it in your container of love. Notice how this changes your ability to receive love.
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When love works, it is a transmission of goodness. It awakens the seed of goodness that lives in each of us and transforms us into our best selves. Love is a visceral experience that wakes us up to our own seed of loveliness, which is our birthright and the truest thing about us. Receiving the love coming towards us is a practice of gratitude and gives us a direct line to the abundance of goodness that surrounds us. This is the key to sustaining love in our lives: recognize, honor and cultivate the love that lives within you.
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