Valentine’s Day isn’t for lovers.

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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.”

Love hurts.

Valentine’s Day isn’t for lovers. It’s for all those who love—and that’s all of us.

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 are really bad at it.

A year back, I wrote about one of my favorite poets, Pablo Neruda, and one of his great poems. And I thought of it again, today. 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.

Letting go sucks. Letting go isn’t pretty.

Letting go ain’t sad. Sometimes it’s bad. Letting go isn’t about birds and cages and things coming back if they truly love you. Letting go is about heartburn, claustrophobia, heartache, angst, growling.

Letting go is about needing, needing happy music, old 1950s How do you Like Your Eggs in the Morning with Dino or Greensleeves in the morning, ’cause you’re so sad and bitter you can’t breathe oxygen, you haven’t breathed in days.

Letting go is about the anger right before you open up and hug a friend and get their shoulder wet and salty.

It reminds me of this poem. I used to love Neruda back in college.

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.

Write, for instance: “The night is full of stars,
and the stars, blue, shiver in the distance.”

The night wind whirls in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like this, I held her in my arms.
I kissed her so many times under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her.
How could I not have loved her large, still eyes?

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.
To think I don’t have her. To feel that I’ve lost her.

To hear the immense night, more immense without her.
And the poem falls to the soul as dew to grass.

What does it matter that my love couldn’t keep her.
The night is full of stars and she is not with me.

That’s all. Far away, someone sings. Far away.
My soul is lost without her.

As if to bring her near, my eyes search for her.
My heart searches for her and she is not with me.

The same night that whitens the same trees.
We, we who were, we are the same no longer.

I no longer love her, true, but how much I loved her.
My voice searched the wind to touch her ear.

Someone else’s. She will be someone else’s. As she once
belonged to my kisses.
Her voice, her light body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, true, but perhaps I love her.
Love is so short and oblivion so long.

Because on nights like this I held her in my arms,
my soul is lost without her.

Although this may be the last pain she causes me,
and this may be the last poem I write for her.

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 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 the Vision of Enlightened Society,

Waylon Lewis
editor-in-chief, host, Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis

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Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view.


27 Responses to “Valentine’s Day isn’t for lovers.”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Waylon Lewis, Jack Daw, Zina Mercil, tenzinkyedrup, Red Fox and others. Red Fox said: Valentine’s Day isn’t for lovers. It’s for all those who love—and that’s all of us. […]

  2. Tangled Macrame says:

    A beautiful reminder and a beautiful poem. Thanks for sharing.

    BTW, the link to "tonglen" is broken.

  3. linda buzogany says:

    Well Waylon, whatever inspired this, it made your writing "…tender, open, raw, vulnerable, and precious". I liked this a lot.

  4. OMG what great words and insight…the universe is sending me this message many times per day regarding letting go of anger/fear ? may have to follow and live/love more authentically….Thank you Waylon…the world needs more people like you..Namaste

  5. Diana says:

    Waylon, this is my favorite post of yours so far. It was tender, compassionate and wise. Thank you for the insight and for the Neruda.

  6. […] sages of India, who cognized the knowledge of Yoga, also conceived a system of astrological calculations to help us get a glimpse into our […]

  7. […] It was shaped by human hands, with love, and care, and imperfection. I bought it for myself as a Valentine’s Day […]

  8. […] has always been for those who love. I like to think of that statement as simple, not redundant. ‘Simple’ because it is so […]

  9. […] this Valentine’s Day, enjoy the love you feel, whether it is with another, yourself, or your pain, for each have invaluable lessons to give and neither of them the same (like that rhyme? totally […]

  10. Capri says:

    Right on! Thanks!

  11. Just posted to "Who Loves You?" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Braja Sorensen
    Lost & Found in India
    Editor, Elephant Spirituality
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  12. […] you know, maybe the fact that Love starts with an L is also a sign of Loss. Maybe there’s a Loser involved at some point in the story, and maybe that Loser is you (surprise […]

  13. […] As you get older it stops being “mandatory” to play nice and treat everyone as equals. Then, Valentine’s Day becomes a battleground between the “haves” and the “have nots” as in those that have […]

  14. […] assume for conversation purposes that Valentine’s Day is about celebrating life with the one you […]

  15. […] May you be happy, and know that you are loved! […]

  16. […] Love isn’t just for lovers, or Valentine’s Day or movies, it’s for all of us. […]

  17. […] It isn’t even all about romance, as wonderful as it is. Love isn’t something far away that we have to chase. Love is what’s inside us, all the time. […]

  18. andeejo says:

    my favorite too. even more than the sweet prose you've been experimenting with the past few months 🙂 this one was so perfect after the past 2 beautiful weeks i was gifted 🙂 now to start again. again. 😉 letting these love lessons flow in and through and out again. so that next time is as much better as this one was.

  19. WolfWillow says:

    Lovely – thank you! 🙂

  20. Sophia says:

    Thankyou. I really really like this. Real and touching.

  21. Lovely ! Wishing you a genuine day as well filled with Lahr collective love of the universe!

  22. Riikka says:

    oh this was my all time favorite poem in my 20’s. and it’s taking me to that special chamber in my heart, again. thank you.

  23. HeroGames says:

    Thank you my friends is amazing really my friend, is very good.
    اهلا بكم في موقع العاب طبخ بنات جديدة ورائعة العبوا مجانا بدون تحميل او اي شروط

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