Sunday, February 13, 2011
Love Is in the Air
Today our friends Jason and Andrea are getting married. Spring is coming. Though the walk with the girls was brisk this morning, it was filled with sunshine spilling over rooftops and birdsong wafting on the chilly breeze. Erin actually just walked in and gave me a little buss. Much like many of you, love is probably on your mind in some capacity or another. Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and I still don’t have Erin’s gift yet. I know what it is but I can’t find it anywhere. While love is in the air perhaps it’s the perfect time to focus on it and really ponder its value in our lives. At this stage in my life I don’t think there is anything more crucial than love. It’s the hub of a virtuous life the way I see it. From there other qualities such as compassion, gratitude, generosity, and patience extend themselves to reach out to others. They are simply manifestations of love. Since I began my journey down the yogic path, and especially during my daily meditations, I have tried to focus on cultivating these five aspects into who I am becoming. The more I do so, the more it seems my relationships with others grow stronger.
I know for some of you, this time of year can also be painful. Perhaps it is the loss of a significant person who had been in our lives, or the longing to find that someone who will love and accept who we are. When I was younger I had a hard time with this. Reflecting on it now, I can see how I didn’t love who I was. I’m sure it began with a negative self-image because of my physical condition. Media and culture can be powerfully subtle influences on our psyches, which only reinforced a pejorative view of myself. I can’t be sure what it was that initially changed how I felt about myself, but I did. The changes were slow in coming, but in hindsight they have all been worth it. Erin was definitely the final shift. She is the one who truly made me feel that I deserve to be loved for who I am. With all my bizarre quirks and idiosyncrasies, she sees the good in me. And for the first time in my life, she made me see that they had been there all along. But the recognition had to come from within. Before I could truly love others I had to love myself. I think we all have to let ourselves heal from time to time. Perhaps the changes I’ve undergone have been a process of healing. It did help to have someone really make me realize this, NIP, but we are all capable of loving ourselves if allow ourselves to do so. I think this goes back to focus as well. If we choose to see the negative, we will always stare down our flaws; harnessing our positive attributes allows us to refine our potential in many areas of our lives. If we channel that constructive energy into what we are most passionate about, our lives are enriched in manifold ways.
While you have a moment to contemplate the love in your life, try to also make a commitment to think about it every day. As I mentioned in my last letter, Grandma reminded me that we always must come from a place of love. No matter what, when, where, how, if the intention stems from love then the result will ultimately be good. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth the effort. Love is ultimately about sacrifice. Your willingness to give to the beloved that which will make the other’s life more fulfilling. It’s a reciprocal process, which is another wonderful benefit of love. The more you try to give it to others, the more you feel it returned. I am blessed to have so much love in my life. From my family, to my friends, to my students—and Erin most of all—I am surrounded by the best thing that life has to offer…love.
Think about the love in your life, NIP, particularly the people you share it with on a daily basis. How can we show more love to our families? Life is incredibly hectic, so make sure you save time to spend with them. Make the most of those moments by sharing love and then think on them fondly when you can’t be together. Love isn’t just some fleeting feeling that gets its own commercial holiday once a year, it is the foundation of a fulfilling life. By trying to bring love into everything we do, we give even menial actions substance. Everyday life becomes less and less “every day.” Every moment that I have the good fortune to spend with Erin could be its own little time capsule postcard picture. Even now she is by my side doing work for her kindergarten class and I feel fortunate to be here in this space in time. We may be doing different things, but I know some part of her is thinking about me, just as I am thinking about her. By putting love into all of our efforts, we start to feel this kinship with others more easily. The hardest step, though, is learning to love ourselves. It’s also the easiest, too, because once we cross that threshold it’s hard to stop. You just want to give it to others so they can ride the wave and inspire others in turn. What begins as “philos” transforms into “agape.” Loving eventually becomes a snowballing process. Let it expand us all in our relationships with each other.
Pass the love, NIP.