Archive for February, 2014

Cultivating Love

Friday, February 14th, 2014

“What happens when people open their hearts?”…
“They get better.”
― Haruki MurakamiNorwegian Wood

Yesterday I had a breakdown.  My emotions could not handle everything coming at me at once.  They were on overload, and I broke.  I broke because I heard words I knew to be so, but had not completely accepted yet.  I heard words that broke my heart.  My rational brain got it; it has gotten it for a long time.  But my heart, my heart is taking it’s time.  It beats at its own pace.

The breakdown was due to a gap in my understanding of what is true and what is fantasy; what is experience and what is hope.  This gap is not anything new or special to just me, it is the human condition.   We all live somewhere in this gap.  But, some people live closer to the truth than others.  I am not one of those people.  I am a bit of a dreamer and can live off hope, for a long time, until reality slaps me in the face, like it always does.

But sometimes we need these slaps in the face.  I know I did.  It was a wake-up call for me.  A wake-up call that I needed very much.  And, do you know what?  I feel so much better.  I have learned that after my breakdowns, I always come out better and stronger, every single time.  Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, likens breakdowns to a spiritual awakening.  Well at least that is what her analyst told her.  I wholeheartedly agree.  Yesterday was a spiritual awakening.

It is in these moments of pain, when we are swimming in the swamplands of our soul, that we attain meaning and insight into our own lives.  And it is in these times, times of suffering, we find wisdom.

“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
― Aeschylus

My despair yesterday brought me wisdom.  And, the slap in my face lead me to a few “a-ha” moments.  And, I am grateful.  But, I did not find this wisdom on my own.  I did not find it by turning into a hermit, crawling into bed and distancing myself from the rest of the world.  I found it with the help of friends.  I found it through connection.  Not just a few kind words, a pat on the back, or a sweet text, no, I found it through truly deeply connecting to someone else.  And, it made all the difference.

To deeply connect with the other, you must become vulnerable.  You must be willing to show your imperfections, let go of your persona, and be real.  It is the only way.  There are some people on this planet that have no problem connecting.  It comes naturally.  They live from their hearts.  They are not afraid to be imperfect.  They are not afraid to look ridiculous, show up at a friend’s door not showered, in a green juice stained shirt and black tears flowing down their cheeks.

Then there are others that have a harder time.  Looking good is too important to them.  And vulnerability is perceived as weakness.  Please hear this my friends, vulnerability is not weakness.  I repeat vulnerability is not weakness.  It is quite the opposite actually.  Being vulnerable is the bravest thing you will ever do.

It takes an enormous amount of courage to be vulnerable, to show your true colors, take a risk and show up at someone’s door tattered and worn.  And, not only does it take tremendous courage, according to Brene Brown “it is the birth place of innovation, creativity, change, joy, love, and belonging.”

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known”…Brene Brown

So, what better way to cultivate love than connecting with others on this Valentine’s Day!  I dare all of you today to let down your walls, open your hearts, share your story, your real story, show up at someone’s door if you have to but go make that connection with a friend, a child, a parent or a lover!  Do not be afraid, put yourself out on a limb and connect, connect, connect!

Happy Valentine’s Day my friends!  Love, love, love you!

Love Junkie

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

“Love is like oxygen
You get too much, you get too high
Not enough and you’re gonna die
Love gets you high”…Sweet

I fell in love with love the night I kissed Danny.  I was in 7th grade.  We were at a Friday night football game.  It was cold and I was shaking uncontrollably, but not from the weather.  Being shy and worried someone would see us, we found a private spot huddled between some cars in the school parking lot.  We talked, I giggled and then it happened.  Somehow we found each other’s lips, mouth and tongue between layers of coats, braces and fear.  Slow, wet, and delicious, I was hooked.  Not just to Danny, but to love.  The kind of love that makes you walk slower, your pupils grow larger, your voice increases an octave, you heartbeat syncs up with the other, the daredevil in you takes over, and you lose yourself.  Obliterated! Poof!  Like magic.

But like magic, this type of love has its dark side.  The Greeks refer to it as Eros, named after the Greek God of fertility.  Eros represents desire and sexual passion and is considered dangerous.   In fact, the Greeks didn’t look at this type of love as something positive, like we do today.  “Eros was viewed as a dangerous, fiery, and irrational form of love that could take hold of you and possess you…”  (Yes Magazine)

Eros and Psyche

I know it took hold of me.  Not only was I possessed, I was changed forever that night. The crazy thing about this, I liked being possessed!  I liked the feeling of being under a magical spell, out of control, and “madly” in love.  Like a narcotic, this “madly” in love state was intoxicating.  And, I admit.  I became addicted to it that night in the school parking lot.

I know I am not alone.  Americans are love junkies.  We are obsessed by love songs, infatuated with romantic comedies, smitten by erotic poetry, and sucked into the bottomless pit of porn, Harlequin novels and 50 shades of Grey.  Always looking for our next fix at the bars, on-line, at the office or next door, it has our culture by the balls. Interestingly, the Greeks were frightened by this loss of control but not us; we seek it out even though families have been torn apart, wars fought and bad songs written in the name of this quixotic love.

Maybe the real problem, being raised on Disney movies, 70’s love songs, and Happily Ever Afters, I asked too much of Eros, thinking it was the end all be all.  I believed it would save me, save us all.  Simply find that one perfect man that will sweep you off your feet, work all day, make love to you all night, build you that castle in the suburbs and give you 2.5 children and 6 weeks of vacation in Hawaii each summer; the American Dream.

But, it is not just asking too much of love or wanting the American Dream that makes us want to lose ourselves in romantic love.  It is something deeper, more profound.  Life is hard. We get battered, pushed around, overwhelmed, and/or lonely, so in an attempt to escape the “rigor and hardship of our journey,” (James Hollis) many of us turn to Eros. Eros offers not just an escape from the outside world but an escape from our selves.  In fact, it is complete fusion with the other, the ultimate obliteration of our selves. And, secretly, this is what we all wish for.  Food, alcohol, drugs, sex and work are also used as an escape but nothing is more powerful, more all-mighty than the Greek God Eros.

But, as James Hollis so eloquently explains, “The in love state, great narcotic that it is, numbs consciousness, retards growth, and serves as a soporific to the soul.”  When we are “madly” in love, fused to the other, we not only lose ourselves, we avoid our souls calling.  If we are truly honest with ourselves, we know this to be true.

So what do we do?  Never fall in love again?  Avoid hot crazy passionate sex?  Shrivel up and die?  Absolutely not!  We are human and sex is vital to our health and well-being.  In fact, I hope everyone at some point in their lives is seduced by Eros’ enchanting spell.  There is nothing else like it in the world.  But, one day the spell will break.  Projections will fall away, pupils will shrink, and hearts will un-sync.  And when that happens, we better be able to rise to the occasion, take love to the next level and answer our souls summons or we will be seduced by Eros again and again in the never ending search for the perfect mate to rescue us from our existence.  Of course, the perfect mate doesn’t exist, but those guided by Eros will keep trying.  Desire is funny that way.

To help avoid any confusion about love and understand the power of Eros, the Greeks actually have six different words to explain different types of love. I got these from Yes Magazine.

  • Eros – sexual passion and desire
  • Philia – deep friendship valued more than Eros
  • Ludus – playful love between children or young lovers
  • Agape – love for everyone;  love that is selfless
  • Pragma – longstanding mature love between a married couple
  • Philautia – healthy love of the self, not narcissism

No wonder the Greeks became the impressive civilization they did.  They were on to something. Our one little word, albeit one very big little word, is used to cover a lot of territory.  Do we honestly “love” chocolate like we “love” our children or “love” our parents the same way we “love” our lover?  I hope not.  Maybe if we actually had more than one word for love we Americans wouldn’t be so focused on Eros.  Maybe, we wouldn’t hope to find Eros, Philia, Ludus, Agape, Pragma and Philautia all embodied in one person.  And, maybe we would value the love we receive from our friends, family, and ourselves just as much or more than Eros.  Maybe.

Even if we understood and nurtured all these different types of loves in our lives, we will never truly know love, we will “never truly have relationship” with someone else or ourselves, until we learn to love more consciously.  Loving more consciously requires growing up, being wide awake, present to the moment and answering our souls calling. All of which call for strength, risk, courage, tolerance and the acceptance of ambiguity.  It’s a tall order, I admit.  In fact, it may just be the most difficult thing any of us will ever have to learn in our lives.  But if we don’t, if we don’t learn to love more consciously, if we don’t learn to value love from other sources, if we don’t learn to love ourselves, we will continue not only to chase the all-mighty Eros till the end of our days, we will still be kissing boys in parking lots.