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Posts Tagged ‘love’

As I turned 40 on Friday, the questions I was asking myself  were  “Have I loved enough? Have  I given enough? Have I dared enough?”.  (The enough here is not meant as some kind of measurement constructed to compare myself with some ideal or others and bring competitiveness into the picture but rather as a reference to the potential). Not surprisingly, I came to the conclusion that I was able and willing to give, love and dare more.

Loving

It’s been quite an adventure loving others but I had to admit to myself that I had yet a lot to learn about giving myself to love wholeheartedly. The love I was offering to my partners and close friends often have been tinted with the desire for them to be a certain way or do specific things, if only for a few minutes. While this was something I honestly believed in earlier, it was a shock for me to realise this has not been how I have been living the loving.

In “Everyday Zen” Joko Beck makes a radical statement: relationships don’t work. In fact, it is the very fact that we want something to work that makes relationships unsatisfactory. “We all want something from the people we are in relationship to. None of us can say that we don’t want something from those we are in relationship to. And even if we avoid relationships that’s another way of wanting something. So relationships just don’t work.”

The only thing that works, according to her, “(if we really practice) is a desire not to have something for myself but to support all life, including individual relationships.” When someone loves/supports someone, there is no book-keeping going on when we try to balance the sheet: I gave this much and now I want something back (be it about preparing meals, doing the dishes or giving emotional support and time). So what does it mean to love/support others on the moment-to-moment basis, choosing love again and again? Loving the person because I want to be with them and not because I want them to be someone else or do something else.

Joko Beck: “To truly support somebody means that you give them everything and expect nothing. You might give them your time, your work, your money, anything. “You need it. I’ll give it to you”. Love expects nothing.”

Quite a different perspective on love from the one we often see in films, books and definately not the one shared by the cultures I have been living in, which are driven by the concern that we cannot get enough of something. We cannot get enough of good food, trendy clothes and gadgets, wise books, cool hobbies, time. Love. We actually start believing someone actually can give us love while love can only exist within ourselves, this is something we feel.

For the moment it might seem like I am doubting my own feelings, often returning to the question,  “Do I love him/her or do I want them to be someone else?” but this is the only way I know that can wake me up from the confusion. If I am not getting enough love, can it be that I am not feeling enough love, not choosing love but instead balancing the sheets too much?

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Fortunate to have a few days off at Christmas time, not charged with any social obligations, I took long walks in the snowy forest, watched BBC TV-series after Jane Austen’s masterpieces, did research for work from the comforting depth of my arm-chair, met with the few friends staying in town for holidays. Was reconnecting to my inner tortoise, one could say. Like Austen’s Emma, I had time to explore the workings of my own heart/mind.  Unlike Emma, I had my yoga practice to turn to for wise guidance on the begun journey into the love-light country. In romantic relationships, as in yoga, we have a chance to meet all sides of ourselves, the ugly and the beautiful, the stuff that makes us shine and that which holds us back.

Here come a couple of my favourite lessons off the yoga mat (but then again all life is one if we do not try to compartmentalize it, right?)

Am I ready?

One of the most profound lessons that yoga has been teaching me about myself and life is that at every moment it can become more than a stretch just as falling for another always has a potential to be a much larger journey than the initial experience of falling in love.  Both can be truly transforming experiences. And as I’ve discovered, transformation is simply not possible without resistance and the underlying fear of change.

As I watch the yoga teacher suspending herself in the air in a beautiful arm-balance, my heart jumps with excitement and I feel the subtle shifting in my own muscles. The next second I catch the Controller in me go, “No-no-no, you could not possibly pull this one off without injuring yourself or destroying the apartment. You certainly should not consider venturing into it without a thorough preparation.”

What I forget is that every pose I ever tried have been preparing me for this next balance. Now whenever I think the pose is too much for me, I remind myself that I don’t need to do it in its entirety right away but can break it down into components to gently and patiently explore each of them. Likewise, in relationships, whenever something feels overwhelming, my beloved and I can break down the larger issue into smaller parts and see what each of them asks from us, one at a time. Suddenly I feel how my own tension subsides, see the face of my beloved relaxing, the first glimpse of smile showing in his eyes.

Throwing oneself into the fire

One of the first things we discover in yoga is the disproportionate restrictions in our body, those tight spots. So the physical aspect of yoga is about cultivating openness in those restricted areas by constantly playing the edge. In his wonderful book on yoga Erich Schiffmann defines playing the edge as “sensing where your edges are and learning to hold the body there with awareness, moving with its often subtle shifts.  Your skill in yoga has little to do with your degree of flexibility or where your edges happen to be. Rather, it is a function of how sensitively you play your edges, no matter where they are.”* I am reminded that there are no such thing as the ideal posture (or perfect relationship for that matter!) but rather each posture is ever-evolving, changing from moment to moment. Sensitivity for me is in the first place about listening for both the words and beyond the words, the ability to drop the agenda (this is how I am going to do this pose or what I am going to say) when I am listening to my own body or to what my beloved says. Even in relationships we can practice listening with the body, as we do in yoga. We can colibrate ourselves to become more sensitive and receive the waves we otherwise might miss.

 

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When I ask someone what it is they like about their partner, often the answer tells me more about what that person receives from their partner – a feeling of being appreciated, loved, understood, safe, etc. It seems what we are looking for in relationships is to have our emotional needs satisfied. Is this not expecting too much? Is it even possible?

I am interested in how something that starts like a romantic movie on the scale of “Titanic” turns into a low-budget drama with elements of nightmare. What is it in me that triggers and steers this process from the very start? Why longing for a working relationship, I set myself up for failure and sabotaged the few ones I had? What would it take from me to live together without hurting my beloved? I have been trying to remember a single morning when I woke up and said to myself, “How can I make sure I get hurt again and while I am at it, why not help another soul feel miserable?” Not that I remember. There seems to be a glitch in the system somewhere.


So I thought I’d take a good look at the dynamics of intimate relationships and try to see where my own judgement fails me.

Why this exploration? Because

a) those same patterns show up in all our relationships although not as powerfully

b) I strive to live a conscious life in this universe not of my choosing

c) let’s just say I finally bought Elisabeth Gilbert’s “Committed” and find myself warming up to the idea of giving myself a try at relationships

“Of all the ideologies that possess the contemporary soul, perhaps none is more powerful, more seductive, and possibly more delusory than the romantic fantasy that there is someone out there who is right for us, the long-sought soul mate, what I call “the magical other” , the one who will truly understand us, take care of us, meet our needs, repair the wounds, and, with a little luck, spare us the burden of growing up and meeting our needs”.

James Hollis, “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Your Life”, p 104

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I received a few comments to my previous post, some of them not on this page. What they had in common was the idea that we need others because we love them and needing people was in fact not so bad. In short: we need to need people.  I believe that the idea that some degree of dependency in a relationship is OK aside from the cultural underpinning is also backed up by another strong belief: if we don’t need others we will end up being cold-hearted and detached people and that is not an attractive picture. Likewise, if others don’t need us, we will end up lonely and unappreciated.

Really?

What about the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela or other individuals who have shown enormous compassion to their fellow humans and do not strike me as cold, detached and non-caring? Nor do they appear(ed) to be lonley and unappreciated. It is easy to think that once we take away our dependency on others, there will be nothing left.

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If I had a prayer, it would be this:

“God, spare me from the desire

for love, approval, or appreciation”.

From “Loving What is”, by Byron Katie

Let me say from the start:  when it comes to romantic love, I was cultured into the whole you-complete-me belief  through films, books and some ideas that basically made it impossible to have a healthy relationship. I grew up in a culture where jealousy was (and still is) taken as a sign of loving someone and even encouraged (especially in men).  The idea that loving someone involves an emotional attachment pervades many cultures but what does it actually imply? It means I depend on another human being for happiness. I depend on you for my happiness. How does this sound for responsibility?

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Unfortunate Coincidence

By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying –
Lady make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

-Dorothy Parker

I don’t share Dorothy Parker’s pessimism when it comes to the matters of heart but have noticed that many times it is exactly following the heart that brought trouble onto my head. You know what I mean? In the beginning it all looks right and feels right (hopefully it even smells right 🙂 ). Then how come one day you wake up and “right” is the last word that comes to mind when you think of that very person that used to be your own center of the universe? As Käbi Laretei asks in her recently published book,  “Vart tog all denna kärlek vägen?” /”Where did all this love go?” .  The acclaimed pianist shared ten years of her life with the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. The book is a collection of their correspondence.

Some try to answer the question by writing books while others draw the conclusion that the only way to avoid this endless circle of disappointments is to simply run for their life from any relationship that brings up those butterflies in the stomach – they are convinced there is no “right”, it just feels that way for a while and they think they can choose  choose safe over  sorry.

For starters I would like to understand what it is that makes my brain see someone as very attractive and therefore desirable,  leaving the where-did-it-go question for later. What happens when I am drawn to another human being and my heart starts beating faster at the very thought of his smile? How does love chemistry work?

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