Valentine’s Day isn’t for Lovers.
It’s for all those who love—and that’s all of us.
“One morning as we were all sitting zazen silently in the zendo, Suzuki Roshi said, “Don’t move. Just die over and over. Don’t anticipate. Nothing can save you now, because this is your last moment. Not even enlightenment will help you now, because you have no other moments, with no future. Be true to yourself, and don’t move.”
The flip side of love is loss. Even as we fall in love, we feel loss coming. Shunryu Suzuki Roshi talked about dying in every moment. This isn’t a bad thing—this feeling of being haunted by impermanence is what makes love real, sweet, heartbreaking, tender, open, raw, vulnerable and precious.
Even for those who fall in love in high school and get married and live happily ever after, their love begins anew each morning, each moment. Love is a practice, much like meditation—and, just like meditation, I and many others can be pretty bad at it.
Valentine’s Day, like Christmas, is happy for many, and miserable for those who feel as if we’re outside, looking in. So it’s a good time to remember that we’re all lonely—loneliness, in the Buddhist tradition, is considered a good thing.
The hard part, as Neruda reminds us, is letting go…
…There is a Buddhist meditation practice for working with anger, or sadness, or loss, or things falling apart. Essentially, it keeps things flowing through you, instead of getting stuck and viewing the emotions as solid, or self-confirming. It works against the ego’s tendency, which is always to cling to pleasure and push away pain, even when reality is painful and pleasure is fleeting.
Ironically, the ego’s push-pull tendency tends to keep one cycling through dissatisfaction, disharmony, and self-centered turmoil—and one winds up not letting go at all, but just adding fuel to the neurotic fire called “samsara” in the Buddhist tradition.
The practice that, in my limited experience, works best as a tonic for sadness or madness is called tonglen, or sending and taking practice.
So. I don’t wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. I wish you a Genuine Valentine’s Day. Feel what you feel. If you feel happy, know that you are loved and lucky and that everything is impermanent, and that sadness will help you love all the more. If you are lonely, know that you’re not alone.
Yours in working (and playing) to create enlightened society,
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