‘Well, what d’you think?’ he asked with a mixture of nervousness and anticipation after she’d left.
And I knew what he was asking. He wanted to know if she was ‘the one’. He’d been talking about her for weeks, telling me how special it felt. But, at nearly 40, he’d been let down before and he was looking to me and to others for confirmation that he wasn’t wrong this time—confirmation that he wasn’t wasting his time.
The thing is, though, I don’t see it as a question of right or wrong, or of wasting time. Love doesn’t have to be perfect, or to go anywhere in order for it to be okay. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be reciprocated. Love is fine just as it is and meeting someone who sparks that loving feeling can be wonderful. Surely any excuse to feel love should be celebrated and enjoyed rather than doubted and questioned? It’s only our minds kicking in, with their fears and beliefs, that make us pull back rather than openly embrace opportunities for love.
Human relationships are never perfect—no matter how perfectly they start out or how hard we try. They are gloriously and messily confusing, surprising and challenging. Yet, they are heart-breakingly beautiful because they all come from a deep prompting to reach out and share love. They emerge from an often-unacknowledged belief that it’s possible to love and be loved in a way that connects hearts and souls rather than just bodies. And no matter how many hurts we suffer, how many walls we construct around how, why and when we think it’s okay to enter a relationship, love still seeks the open channels where it can flow.
So, what if we accept that they won’t always work out the way we might like? What if, instead of keeping one foot out the back door so that we can escape from love, we focus on finding excuses to embrace it? If we shift our perspectives just a little we can help to lift some of the pressure we sometimes feel to find the right person or to make an existing partnership perfect.
Rather than thinking we’re failing somehow if we haven’t yet found ‘the one’, or if a relationship has ended, we could focus our attention instead on how well we’re allowing ourselves to love. We could pat ourselves on the back when we open our hearts rather than judging ourselves by whether the love is reciprocated or amounts to a lasting relationship. Why does love have to be anything more than love? Isn’t it the ultimate in and of itself?
What’s really important, after all, is how we feel rather than how someone else feels about us. I used to believe that my love for another was somehow conditional on how they felt about me—that it somehow made my love less than okay if someone who didn’t love me back. Now I know it’s just fine. No, I know it’s more than fine—it’s essential for me to feel that love flowing through me. It keeps me healthy, happy, vibrant—and I’m utterly grateful for those who help to keep that spark alive when I’m not doing such a good job on my own.
Yes, it amplifies it when we get the opportunity to share deep love with another but the more important thing is to allow ourselves to feel it in the first place.
If there’s one thing that I understand particularly from some of the Eastern traditions it’s how transformative it can be when a guru inspires love in the heart of a follower. And the path of bhakti—devotion—is similar. These practices carry a deep awareness of the importance of opening the heart and allowing love to flow. But no commitment to a specific spiritual path or teacher is needed if we’re willing to make our own commitment to love. Once that commitment is made, then we open the door to allowing it to find it’s way more easily into our lives.
A dedication to love is a profound spiritual practice. It can start with something as simple as not denying the love we feel for another, no matter how our minds may struggle with it, and instead using it as an opportunity to tune our hearts more closely to the frequency of love. We become our own gurus, finding ways and excuses to keep love alive and vibrant in ourselves while remaining conscious that it doesn’t have to have any other implication. No public declaration of love is needed nor change of commitments to existing partners.
And of course it’s only human to want to make more of it. If someone inspires love in us, there’s the natural urge to reach out and share. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be perhaps the issue it is at the moment. Maybe we’ll manage, as a society, to return to an innocence where love can be shared between people in whatever way feels right and be accepted as simply an expression of love rather than carry with it a whole host of expectations and conditions. But right now reaching out to share the love that we feel can have very mixed consequences, triggering in others and ourselves a range of responses from fear and anger through to high hopes. Perhaps at this stage of our common spiritual journey we’re needing to relearn how to focus on reawakening love in our own hearts regardless of others.
The interesting thing is, though, the more we make a daily practice of feeling love, the more we start to find others that help to inspire that feeling in us (although they don’t always know it). As our vibration lifts and our hearts open, we start to meet others that carry a similar energy. We discover that it is possible to feel a deep love for total strangers whom we’ve just met or for casual acquaintances.
The love that we’re capable of feeling finds the most unusual of matches across the globe, in ways and through people that our minds might have otherwise struggled with had we not already engaged the heart. Saying ‘I love you’, and meaning it, becomes something that is no longer confined to immediate lovers, friends and family, nor does it carry any implication of an ongoing emotional or sexual connection.
After all, when I say I love you, it means just that—I feel love for you. When and why did we stop being proud of our ability to feel love and being grateful to those that help inspire that feeling in us?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: elephant archives