How to Have a Love Affair With the Whole World
Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.
~Zora Neale Hurston
Hearts. Candy. Love.
Like New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that many “single” people dread. I’ve spent many years as an un-coupled person and I remember the feeling of exclusion and resentment that would brew in me around the fourteenth of February. It wasn’t pretty.
During one stretch of being single, I had an epiphany… one of those moments when you’re looking at the same world that’s been in front of you all along but suddenly it’s as though you’re seeing it through a totally different pair of glasses.
My life changed the day that I realized how narrow a definition of “being in a relationship” our culture has handed down to us.
Valentine’s Day is the ultimate carrier of this message but it happens all the time. We are constantly told through movies, songs, and advertisements that if we aren’t hooked up with that one “special” person we are doomed to be lonely, we’re missing out, and even that our life is not so worth living.
On that day of epiphany, I realized how ridiculous it was to buy into this belief without questioning it. I already was in a relationship – a relationship with the whole world. And quite specifically, with my close friends, family, colleagues at work, with the people who took the bus with me, with neighbors, with the check-out folks at the grocery store.
I depend on all of them, to one degree or another, and they depend on me. We are always breathing in and breathing out together on this planet home that we all share.
In fact when I look at it this way, I am never alone. The idea of being “single” is a huge fallacy.
Each day I am in dozens of relationships with all kinds of people. Sure, I might not kiss them or share a bed with them at the end of the night. But in every case, it is my choice to not see them as simply a cog in the wheel of my existence, but rather as living, breathing human beings where the potential for some kind of intimacy always exists.
In each relationship, no matter how trivial it may seem, I always have the choice to engage with another person wholeheartedly. To echo Zora Neale Hurston’s words at the top of this post, I always have the opportunity to allow my soul to crawl out from its hiding place and to bask in the warmth of true connection with another.
And I can extend the definition beyond human beings – in every moment, I am in relationship with the whole Earth and all the creatures who live upon her. I am in relationship with the waterways in my bio-region, with the soil that supports the plants that nourish me, with the air that we all breathe.
I love the title of Joanna Macy’s book, World as Lover, World as Self which points to this way of interacting with life. What would happen if you let yourself flow through this Valentine’s Day knowing that you can be a lover to all people and things that come your way?
Don’t get me wrong… romantic love can be lovely. But it’s only one kind of love and it’s a lot more temporary than any of us would like to believe.
When you have a love affair with the whole world, you can regularly take deep dives into ecstasy and have it go on for the rest of your life.
I think perhaps that’s what Krishnamurti was getting at in this quote:
The moment you have in your heart this extraordinary thing called love
and feel the depth, the delight, the ecstasy of it,
you will discover that for you the world is transformed.
In the Liberated Life Project playbook (and yes, there is such a thing!) this is known as a re-frame – the act of taking a conventionally accepted belief or concept and giving it a different meaning in your life.
So this Valentine’s Day, try out a re-frame of the holiday as well as the whole concept of “relationship.” Here are a few ideas to play with today:
• Practice lovingkindness with the person at the cash register. As he or she is scanning your groceries, try to imagine how many hours they’ve worked today, who’s waiting at home for them, what their dreams and hopes might be. Then send them some good vibes. Silently send this wish: “May you be happy, may you be free from suffering.”
• Remember that you’re in a relationship with the Earth. Choose to do one thing today that you don’t normally do in honor of this relationship: Walk to work or take the bus instead of driving. Bring a cup with you to the coffee shop instead of getting your java in a paper cup. Kiss the sky.
• Write your own definition of love. If you’re a visual artist, draw or paint what love means to you. Sing it at the top of your lungs if music is your thing.
Here is one definition to breathe in, thanks to Sandra Pawula of “Always Well Within:”
“Love is the wish for all beings without limit to have happiness and the causes of happiness. This wish is actively expressed through loving thoughts, words, and deeds. Love is inextricably intermixed with affection, kindness, compassion, gentleness, warm-heartedness, empathy, and forgiveness. One’s capacity to love is rooted in a healthy sense of self-love. When love partners with wisdom, we see reality as it is.”
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