“Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself, it is very difficult to take care of another person. In the Buddhist teaching, it’s clear that to love oneself is the foundation of the love of other people. Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
I am practicing love. I am opening my heart.
I love my partner, and it has dawned on me that he’s really difficult to live with, a lot of the time. I am far from perfect, and I’m sure there are plenty of ways in which I am not easy to live with, either.
I realize that there is no escape. I’m not running away. I’m not asking to be chased. I’m walking away, slowly, mindfully, and deliberately. I know, though, that I need to create my own oasis of space and silence.
It may not make sense to someone looking in from the outside, but I truly feel that by moving apart, we will become closer. By having our own living spaces for a time, we will remember the good parts about being under the same roof, and develop a greater sense of gratitude for the simple joy of sharing our daily meals (not to mention splitting the cooking and cleaning duties, let’s be honest). Or, I could be wrong. This could be the first step toward permanent separation.
In light of all this, here’s what I’ve been working with lately in my personal practice. Here are three simple steps to employ at those moments when I need to relax and go with the flow:
Step One: Arrive
“The first step is to slow down and let your mind settle enough that you are able to drop from the heights of conceptuality back into your body, a simple form in space. Can you really feel present, in your body as it is, right where you are?” ~ Judy Lief
Be still. Find a quiet space. Create some alone time. Breathe and allow yourself to truly arrive, to fully embody your body, right here and now.
Step Two: Invite
Welcome, emotions, one and all! None will be turned away; none will be dwelled upon. As Pema Chodron teaches:
“Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”
Step Three: Let go.
Perhaps the outcome we want, or think we want, will not be what happens. That can bring up an immense and overwhelming fear. What if our love isn’t the kind of love that lasts forever? What if our love isn’t the kind that can co-habitate? What’s best for the child(ren)? What’s best of each of us, individually?
When I sit, I see how hooked I am on predicting, planning, and plotting. Letting go simply means dissolving all those extraneous thoughts and stories into thin air. Consciously choosing to stop boarding those cyclical, worrisome trains of thought, and watching the mind play its games.
We can change our lives by changing our intentions and changing our actions. It is liberating to let go and see what unfolds.
How open to each moment can we be? Remember that love is the thread that is invisibly present in all.
“To be transformed by the practice of love is to be born again, to experience spiritual renewal. What I witness daily is the longing for that renewal and the fear that our lives will be changed utterly if we choose love. That fear paralyzes. It leaves us stuck in the place of suffering.
When we commit to love in our daily life, habits are shattered. Because we no longer are playing by the safe rules of the status quo, love moves us to a new ground of being. We are necessarily working to end domination. This movement is what most people fear. If we are to galvanize the collective longing for spiritual well-being that is found in the practice of love, we must be more willing to identify the forms that longing will take in daily life.
Folks need to know the ways we change and are changed when we love. It is only by bearing concrete witness to love’s transformative power in our daily lives that we can assure those who are fearful that commitment to love will be redemptive, a way to experience salvation.” ~ bell hooks
Author: Michelle Margaret Fajkus
Image: Garden State still
Editor: Travis May