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                        To Love

             and   

          Be Loved                                    

                           Ula Moleda

 

          Love                                                          

How many of us dream about being the recipient of Cupid’s gold arrow? You know, a little cherubic, naked boy with wings and a bow with arrows, who flies around looking for a target, two people ready for love. Who wouldn’t welcome the opportunity to be hit by the god of love's dart? Who wouldn’t like the experience of that instant and mutual love with the ‘right’ person, the kind of love that enlightens and enhances all of humanity?

In Plato’s dialogue, The Symposium, the playwright Aristophanes suggests that the origins of love lie in a desire to complete ourselves by finding a long lost ‘other half’. At the beginning of time, he says playfully, all human beings were hermaphrodites: “a rounded whole, with double back and flanks; it had four hands and an equal number of legs, and two identically similar faces upon a circular neck, with one head common to both the faces, which were turned in opposite directions.” He then tells us that those creatures were so powerful and proud that Zeus had to cut them in two, into a male and female half. So, since then, men and women have been searching for their other halves and “the love which restores us to our ancient state by attempting to weld two beings into one and to heal the wounds which humanity suffered.” 

You may well laugh at the story, but somewhere deep inside our hearts we all can recognize a symbolic truth – we fall in love with people expecting that they will help to make us whole and happy. 

The challenge with our modern world is that it keeps feeding us with extremely high expectations. We are constantly invited to dream, starting from kindergarten fairytales about handsome, cheerful, and wise prince riding the white horse and ever-agreeable, gentle, and beautiful princess who looks at him with constant adoration, totally helpless on her own. We are surrounded by romantic novels, which tell us that people in love should be able to read each other’s minds and know their needs and, of course, we are bombarded by advertisements, media, the Hollywood and Bollywood movies that show us how the ‘perfect relationship’ should look like. 

Here is a good time to pause and ask oneself:

1 – How do I define ‘love’?

2 – When do I know that I am loved? 

There are lots of myths and views that need to be looked at if it comes to love and relationships. Often, we grow up with the idea that we must be capable of being madly and beautifully in love with one person for the whole of our lives. We hold certain images and beliefs in our heads about our partners and their roles in the relationship. We believe that our lover should be our best friend, sexual partner, great co-parent, who will share our desires, hobbies, interests, likes and dislikes. And, we often believe, that he/she should be our hero who should lead us from darkness to light, fills us up with joy and happiness, helps us to grow, and be there for us 24/7. We quietly trust that he/she will merge with us so we can become ‘one’. There should be ever arguments between us or differences in opinion – we should always agree on everything. 

Therefore, in most cases, we are looking for our soul mate, someone who could understand everything deep and strange about us, who would see us completely ‘naked’ and still love us for our totality. A beautiful, romantic idea. However, the legacy of Romanticism has been an epidemic of loneliness and pain, as we are repeatedly had to come face to face with reality, that is the inability of any one other person to wholly understand who we truly are, or to make us whole, or to be everything for us. 

Even though we don’t really want to admit, culture and society may play a critical role in our own approach to love. Falling in love with someone feels like a very personal matter, yet, in most cases, we are shaped by the myths that are created by people around us; myths so deeply ingrained in our psyche that we cannot tell them apart from our own voices. Myths, fairy tales, romantic novels and movies, and our family and friends shape our own views, even about such personal matters as love itself. Therefore, we sometimes may mistake the reality of our own needs and desires with those myths and fantasies borrowed from others. And that may be the first danger of holding up an illusion that cannot be fulfilled in the real life. 

Realizing that the greatest disappointment comes from our expectations, we may be better off to start learning the geography of our internal world; to become explorers of our own psychological space so we can maneuver with more ease and grace. Letting go of fears, expectations, and criticism and bringing in even more joy, happiness, love and understanding. 

Zen Buddhist Teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, said that “understanding is love’s other name” and illustrates this in a metaphor in his book ‘How to Love’: 

“If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are and, then, they have a chance to transform.” 

He also shares how to grow our own hearts: 

“When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness… You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.” 

In his beautiful book ‘The Prophet’, Khalil Gibran similarly gave us good advices:

“On LOVE: ‘When love beckons to you, follow him,

Though his ways are hard and steep…’

On Marriage: ‘You were born together, and together you shall be for evermore.

You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.

Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness.

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

The two last lines tell us all – be together, love each other totally, and, at the same time, keep your own light shining, don’t become the shadow for each other, be free and be yourself in love and marriage. Love and support each other, but also give yourself and your lover the space to be individuals.

There are times when it may be challenging to fully be oneself in the relationship. People sometimes feel that they are sacrificing themselves too much, that there are too many compromises, obstacles, giving without taking… They may feel lonely lying in bed with their partner; they may feel empty in the company of a loved one. Frustrated, unsatisfied, disappointed, defeated. They may blame themselves or others, or look for the answers and solutions outside the relationship. 

Osho, the Indian philosopher, gets to the source of the issue – in most cases, the source for these emotions is ‘I’. He may have the answer we are looking for. Here, it is a quite long quotation from ‘Absolute Tao – Talks on Fragments from Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu’ by OSHO: 

“… But we are so afraid of emptiness. People come to me and say it is so difficult to be alone because one starts feeling one’s emptiness. Then you seek friends, then you seek lovers, and the whole effort from the very beginning is doomed, because a man who is afraid of his emptiness cannot really love. He is afraid. Deep down there is fear. How can he love? When he moves and pretends that he is in love with somebody he is just trying to escape from himself – his own emptiness. He is trying to forget that somewhere inside there is emptiness and nothingness. He is trying to fill that emptiness by somebody’s presence – and the other is also doing the same.

              So, almost ninety-nine percent of the love affairs on this earth are false. Sooner or later, you come to realize that they have been deceived, fooled. But they think that the other has fooled them, they never think that they have also done the same thing to the other. And they don’t understand the misery of human beings and their stupidity. If they understood their own stupidity, what they are doing, they would be able to feel compassion for all. When you cannot be alone, silent, it means you are afraid of your loneliness, you want to fill it by somebody. You pretend. The other is also doing the same with you, he cannot be alone. Two persons who cannot be alone are trying to be together; now this is going to be a miserable phenomenon, a hell.

              If you cannot love yourself in your loneliness, how can the other love you? How can you expect anybody to love you if you cannot love yourself? If you are so fed up with your loneliness, sooner or later the other will also be fed up with your loneliness. You cannot fill it, it is something that cannot be filled. It is something that exists as part of your being – you cannot fill it, it has to remain empty. It will remain empty. All efforts fail to fill it.

              So the first thing is to get in tune with this emptiness, to allow it, to live it. Don’t suppress and don’t escape. Feel it, enjoy it – and by and by you will understand the beauty of it. Once you understand the beauty of your loneliness it becomes aloneness. Then it is no more empty, then it is no more nothingness. Then it is a purity – it is so pure that it is formless.

              Always remember the difference between aloneness and loneliness. Loneliness is like a wound. Loneliness means you are missing the other. Loneliness means you are thinking of the other constantly, you are hankering for the other constantly. The other is in your fantasy, in your mind, in your dreams. The other is not real, is imaginary, but the other is there and because it is not real you feel lonely.

              When you start feeling your aloneness, the other has dropped from your mind completely. It no more shadows your dreams, it no more touches your purity. You are happy with yourself, you are ecstatic with yourself, you are enjoying yourself. Now for the first time you are in tune with your being and with your non-being. You are whole.

              Now you can be in love. Now love can flow. But now love will be a sharing, not an escape. Now you can go and share your being – and your non-being also. Now you can share your wholeness. Now you can allow anybody who is open to join your openness, now you can become partners in the eternal journey. This love will not be possessive, because you are ready to be alone anytime. In fact, you are happy being alone, you are happy being together – you don’t choose. Both are good. Whatsoever the case you feel happy. Your happiness cannot be destroyed now; the other can enjoy it and share it, but cannot destroy it.

              You can share and you can distribute it and you can give it to the whole world; you have so much of it that you can bless the whole world with it. And it goes on growing; the more you give the more you find it is there. Now you are not a miser; now your being is not constipated, you are not closed, not afraid. You can give, you can share, because you know your non-being also. Now you are not afraid of being a non-being. Now you know definitely that it is part of your being and the beauty of your being; it is your inner space where you can move, the inner shrine, the real temple….”

May you always love and be loved,

With Love & Light, Ula