As I talk with more and more friends, and watch people’s hearts pouring out on Facebook and Twitter on Valentine’s Day, I am forced to confront yet again how much this day of love is also a day of pain for so many.
This is the reality of our lives.
Everything that brings us pleasure and joy also brings us suffering and suffering.
Everything that reveals God to us also veils us from God.
And so it is with Valentine’s Day.
So it is with love.
There is nothing that brings us closer to God than love.
Nothing transforms us more fully, more beautifully, than love.
And yet, perhaps nothing causes more suffering than love.
And so I watch, and I ponder, how this day of love also brings so many people pain.
There is nothing to say about Love. Love is love.
The great Rumi says that even he is ashamed when it comes to talking about love, that his pen gets stuck like a donkey gets stuck in a muddy path.
And yet, there is something to be said.
This is for all of us who on this day feel a sense of anger, a sense of isolation, even bitterness because the reality of lives around us doesn’t quite match the image of hearts and chocolates and roses.
So many of us give in by bemoaning the capitalist and corporate appropriation of love by the Chocolate, Cards, and Rose Industrial Complex. (All of which is true).
But none of that removes the bitterness from our hearts, and perhaps even augments it. So here are three practical steps to move from bitterness to joy on this Valentine’s Day.
1) First, Begin by loving yourself.
Begin by practicing kindness towards yourself. Be gentle and kind towards your own self. Surely, that is at least one meaning of “Love thy neighbor as thy self.” Unless you love your own self, you cannot love your neighbor.
Our hearts are the cup in which we offer love to each other. If our own cup is muddy, bloody, or filled with holes, it is hard to offer drinks to others.
I often marvel at many of us (myself included) that offer beautiful advice to others, but fail to take it for our own selves, to practice our own wisdom. Let us vow to include our own selves in the outpouring of love. Let us include our own selves not as the idol to be worshipped, not as the slippery ego, but as another child of God who deserves love, deserves to be loved, even by our own self.
2) Second, expand the circle of love.
Valentine’s Day causes many of us pain because we have we have narrowed the range of love to one particular variety, romantic love. Love comes in a thousand shapes and sizes: love of parents, love of children, love of siblings, live of friends, love of partners, love of neighbors, love of strangers, love of pets. We further our pain by first restricting love to romantic love, and then attaching that romantic love to one particular human being. It is as if out of seven billion human beings, that single human spirit is the sole one to love, and be loved by. It’s a trap we have all fallen in, and yet what a sad commentary on our ability to show love to the other seven billion human beings.
Love! (That’s a verb.)
Do Love. Practice Love. Let love permeate you, and pour out of you. Love!
Love itself is redemptive, and transformative.
Love hurls us beyond the bonds and trappings of the ego, as it calls us to care more about others than our own narrow selfishness.
It is the ripening of the spirit.
It is the fire that cooks us.
This is what the great Rumi say:
You and I should live
as if you and I
have never heard
of a “you”
and an “i.”
This is the great insight of the Islamic mystical tradition, the “Mazhab-e eshq” (Path of Overflowing, Radical Love). It calls on us to love, to realize that ultimately love of God and love of humanity are One. Love is the cosmic current that is God, flows from God, brings creation into existence, sustains us, transforms us, and will someday by the grace of God deliver us back to God.
Love not that one human being to the exclusion of all others, but love all.
Gratitude is a key to genuine contentment in life. Real happiness is connected to gratitude for not what we wish we had, but for what we already have. Give thanks. Give thanks to God, and express your gratitude to people. Care more about people than about things. Let the people in your life know that they are loved. Start with parents, if they are still living. Move on to partners, siblings, children, teachers, friends, neighbors.
Be bold in this love. Say it now. Show it now. Live it now.
May it be the above can be a step in removing the suffering and pain from Valentine’s Day. Let us expand the circle of love till the whole world is included in our love.
And maybe if we do so, if we show love and compassion towards all, including our own selves, then we would be able to approach love and love celebration with joy, and not bitterness.
If we do so, it is not to become lovable. Every human being, me, you, all of us, we are already loveable and precious, because we are all precious children of a loving God. Practicing this widening of the circle of love simply allows us to become cognizant of this preciousness of all, including our own self.
Let us live this love, and remove bitterness from our own heart.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all, for any and all love we celebrate.
May there be love, any love, all love.
May it be a love that heals;
May it be a love that possesses not;
May it be a love that hurts not;
May it be a love that uplifts and transforms;
May it be a love that brings light and beauty;
May it be a love that is divine and human mingling.