As I think about paths to love, what first comes to mind is that familiar experience where we feel moved by the beauty of the beloved and a tender glow naturally flows.We experience love in these moments as a spontaneous, effortless reaction to the lovability of someone out there.I enjoy this path.It appeals to the romantic in me, the sensitive guy who tears up at movies.
Another approach to love starts, not so much with lovability out there, but "love-ability" in here.We connect with the inner lover and make a conscious decision to engage life from that presence.Deliberately exercising our love-muscles, we cultivate habits of love – seeing with intimate eyes, responding with tenderness and care to ourselves, to our beloved, and to all beings.
This path is a doing of love that springs from a being of love.Sometimes, this doing is energized by feelings of love. Often, doing love leads to the feeling of love. And, occasionally, following this path is like an exhausted warrior quietly, without reward, doing her duty.
Feelings of love, like all feelings, come and go.Sometimes silent, sometimes vibrant, the inner lover is always there.
Entering relationship means entering the realm of mystery.We are mysterious, paradoxical beings - mysterious to ourselves, at times, and mysterious, for sure, to each other.Part of the paradox is that, at the core of our nature, we are unique (but not separate) and one (but not the same).
From my vantage point on intimate relationship, it's possible that all of the following statements are true:We are one.We are two.We are three.
Reflecting this notion is a short poem I wrote a dozen years ago.
And Everything Else.
After putting out the recent wisdom, Three Pronouns of Relationship, I received feedback from a couple of you (thank you Cyndi and Betsy) emphasizing the cosmic nature of relationship.As I opened more deeply during a recent meditation to that level of reality, the thought came:how about six pronouns? – i, you, we, I, YOU, WE.
The lower case pronouns refer to that psychological level of reality, where we encounter uniqueness and human goofiness.Gary Zukav calls this the "level of personality".The capital letters refer to the cosmic or spiritual level of reality, where all is one and all is love – the "level of soul".We relate to each other at both levels.One of them, however, is more complicated than the other.
As I think about the Softening to Love retreat I'm offering later this spring, I'm excited to explore balance and integration in these levels of relationship – the psychological and the spiritual. I also look forward to building balance into the three main activities of the retreat - conversation, guided experience and quiet reflection.
Please check out the updated description of the retreat at my website:www.softeningtolove.comAs always, your feedback is much appreciated.
Who knows, as pronouns proliferate, maybe next week there'll be nine.
This week, as I think about the spring retreat and as I live in my own relational world as a betrothed man, I've been playing with an old idea that there are three entities in every close relationship that need attention, protection, nourishment and care: the two who are in relationship and the relationship itself.Each intimate connection has unique requirements – distinct (but not completely separate) from the individuals involved.
For example, imagine it's an autumn Sunday evening in a marriage that's drifting apart.John and Marcia have just spent most of the weekend, each doing their own thing.John heads downstairs with a beer to catch Sunday night football on the big screen in the den.Marcia cozies up in the bedroom to watch Sex and the City reruns.Each is moving toward what they desire in the moment.In some relationships, that could be a lovely win-win scenario.In a malnourished relationship, however, it may not be the wisest choice.
What strikes me here, in a new way, is that I am not one-half of a relationship, I am one-third. This gives pause – and raises questions:
What if the old standard of fairness (50-50) is a bit greedy and short-sighted?What if my half is only a third?
What if it's not enough to nurture me and nurture you?I have a hard enough time listening to myself and listening to you.How do I listen to the relationship?
Three important pronouns:I, You, We.How do I honor all three in a balanced way?Or, better yet, how do we, as a relational team, work together to care for ourselves, each other, and that nebulous entity between us?