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February 8, 2017

This Valentine’s Day, Love like a Buddhist.

I have been single for more Valentine’s Days than I have been coupled, and I have often felt a sense of impending doom as February the 14th approaches.

Friends and I share snarls and eye rolling as we ask one another, “So, what are you doing for V-Day?’ As if we already know the answer will be, “Oh, you know…feeling let down and slightly depressed.”

The truth is, this is a loaded day for those in and out of a relationship. Either way, we harbor hidden expectations around it.

As with other widely celebrated holidays, a piece of us will always want V-Day to be perfect. However, like most “special” days, it never quite lives up to the vision we hold in our minds.

In Buddhism, it is our attachment to a perceived outcome that causes suffering.

We would think as the years went by we would learn to put less pressure on each other and ourselves, but some deep belief stops us from lightening up. We cling to the idea that external circumstances get to decide whether we are happy.

Valentine’s Day, for many of us, is traditionally focused on receiving positive feedback from others.

It all began in our early school days, when we drew names on paper hearts and gave them to each other—and then solemnly counted every heart we collected.

Already, in primary school, we learned to give others the responsibility of reinforcing our self-worth. Now that we’re adulting, I think it’s time we altered this perspective.

We can each rebrand this holiday if we choose. In fact, we can reclaim it as the ideal time to practice heart-centered living, whether we have a sweetheart or not.

In Buddhist practice, we’re taught to move in the world from a place of inner validation, rather than outer. So let’s use Valentine’s Day as a time to come back to our own hearts—the only place where we will experience true, lasting love.

Many overlook the fact that the Buddha separated from his wife and children in order to pursue his path of awakening. That’s a key point to remember when we idealize a relationship as the best way to lead a fulfilling life.

Ancient wisdom understood that our true happiness does not rest with others.

As we seek something outside of ourselves to improve and solidify our current state, we are endlessly disappointed, for the exterior world is unpredictable and ever-changing.

Let’s take this Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to become more enlightened—not further bogged down.

The task of awakening depends solely on our point of view.

As we grow into healthy adults, we must own the role of becoming our own “happiness creators.”

Buddhism perceives every moment as an opportunity to wake up. This holiday is another pathway to deeper contentment and compassion.

If we are coupled on this day, let’s take the pressure off our partners, too, by returning to the greater tenderness within.

When we experience love overflowing from our own hearts, it matters less how others respond.

We can become our own soulmate this Valentine’s Day. This very heart beating in our chest is ours for the rest of our lives.

Here is a meditation I worked on creating to bring about more love on this day (and on any other day when we need a little lift). If we are suffering because the world is not meeting our expectations the way we think it should, it is our choice to step outside of the pain.

The Light Heart Meditation:

Sit, lie or stand and become still. Notice the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe in and out.

On the next inhalation, imagine breathing into your heart and filling it with light.

On the next exhalation, imagine this light extending out from your heart into your whole body, and filling every bit of it (even each bone and cell) with loving light.

Continue this practice for five cycles of the breath, filling the heart and then extending that love out to your whole body. When finished, pause and silently repeat a loving phrase. I like, “Perfect love is created within my chest.”

Continue this meditation until your heart is overflowing.

This Valentine’s Day, let’s discover perfect love. Inviting it in is simpler than we think. We don’t need anyone or anything else to unconditionally adore ourselves.

Breath, heart, and light equals love.

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Author: Sarah Norrad

Image: @elephantjournal on Instagram

Editor: Toby Israel

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Sarah Norrad

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