love. week twenty seven.
city. ithaca, new york city
Subject: Thoughts on Love
Feb 15, 2021 10:07 AM
Thanks for agreeing to do this. I'll start off with some general questions, and you can answer them however you'd like (or even ignore them). Feel free to follow your thoughts wherever they lead you; this isn't an interview :) it's a conversation.
1. In as few or as many words as you'd like, what does love mean to you?
2. What is the relationship between love, the sacred, and nature (for you)?
3. Can you tell me more about your idea that 'love is a practice' and 'a choice’?
Re: Subject: Thoughts on Love
Feb 16, 2021 12:40 PM
This is how some thoughts on your prompts unfolded...
LOVE is potent. LOVE is healing.
It is the force that disentangles us from the cords that ensnare us and bind us to an unaltered mind and a uniform, mediocre life.
Love is fluid, warm. It melts the obstructions we come across in this life. If we open to it. Love also opens us. By opening, it releases and shows us how to release.
Love transforms. With its heat, propensity, and spreading nature; it breaks through the illusions that circulate time and time again through our human minds. Shearing with the great sword of Kali, love makes space. It clears. And abruptly turns us to look at what is present. What is true.
However, we must not forget that everything is sacred. That everything, every tree that roots down into this earth and breaches its loving gaze up towards the sky above, is deserving.
Every pimple, every ache, every injury, illness. Our bodies are inviting us deeper, to come back to love, to go within. To find union with our beloved. To touch ourselves.
There must be a sacredness to life. Without it, we forget how to love ourselves and each other. We get stuck in seeing reciprocity rather than beauty. We get lost in desires that don’t fill us. We see utility in each other rather than the divine manifestation of the cosmos in each and every one of us.
We become plastered to notions of control and perfection, adhering vigorously to the standards we’ve collected over the years. We feel unworthy, undeserving. Painting our experiences as they should or should not be, rather than receiving them with full awareness. We see healing and love as things we outsource externally, rather than intrinsic in all that breathes.
Love is sameness. It is understanding our oneness and our individual nature. It is a felt sense. An attunement to the one and only pulse within us all. Sensory awareness training can bring us home so that we may recall what it feels like. Through emptiness we may make space for it to be let in.
Love is being in the cycle of life. Of feeling how your own exhalation nourishes all those around you, the living earth. Knowing that with inhalation, you are being nourished in the most holy of ways. Remembering to dance upon the cycles of life as things fall apart and come together again.
And yes, love is a practice. A life-long practice. So give it time, rest in LOVE. Let love slowly, subtly unhinge us all. Let it awaken without too much effort or force. More like a bubbling stream ready to burst from all the pressure that’s accumulated. Because we’re all ready to be awoken. We want to live and we want to love.
We are always held. We just have to stop and let ourselves release into the loving earth that supports us.
So begin the practice with your breath. With one or three mindful breaths. Begin with opening your eyes. By feeling the weight of your body and soles upon the earth. Start by speaking lovingly to the plants that adorn your shelves, to the bug on your floor, to the pimple that will not succumb to your plucking and pulling.
Walk with peace, kissing our earth mother as you walk. Take pause. Look up at the sky. Look into the waters around you. Can you see your true face reflected back at you?
Plant the seeds of love. Hug with mindfulness knowing the impermanence of life. Feel another in your arms, smell them, feel your heart pressed upon their’s. And get real with your truths and purpose.
Eat with presence, simmer love into your vegetables as you cook. Touch your food, smell it, savor it. Know its origins. Let it heal you. And oil yourself with sweet soft touches and circular motions to learn how to tend to this vessel.
Pray. Rest. Don’t do this all at once. Begin with one question. How might I open to love?
Begin with one deep breath.
Breathe my dear.
You are alive and you are loved.
Re: Re: Subject: Thoughts on Love
Feb 17, 2021 3:00 PM
Thanks for your truly thoughtful and provocative response! There are a hundred directions I'd like to take this in. But maybe I'll start with just two.
1. As I was reading your thoughts, my own mind kept saying things like "yeah, exactly! I should just stop resisting, and let love flow into my life." But then, as I turn back to my day, I find that that's much easier said (or in this case, thought) than done. Now, you preempted my reaction by pointing at that it's a slow and steady course, and shouldn't be attempted in a single leap. But I'd still like to hear your thoughts on why it's so difficult for many (even those who are sincerely interested in becoming loving people) to make that transition? What, in your experience, holds people back from love?
2. Your thoughts on the sacred are especially poignant for me. Growing up in a religious environment, the sacred (or its cousin, the holy) was fully on display in my life, my relationships, my work, my thoughts... and it's something that I find very difficult to recreate or recognize in a secular context. You wrote that "we must not forget that everything is sacred," and I truly do believe this. But I would add that something is only as sacred as we make it. If, on the other hand, we treat things as mundane, they will in fact become mundane (for us). (I find that the act of sex bears this out quite powerfully. It can either be an act of radical love, innocent pleasure, or total abuse, depending on how it is treated by the participants.) Do you have any thoughts on how to cultivate the sacred within the secular? I often think about creating my own rituals, but without an existing tradition/community, that almost feels silly. What's worked for you? What hasn't worked?
Re: Re: Re: Subject: Thoughts on Love
Mar 3, 2021 3:40 PM
Here are some thoughts on your first question. I often speak with a voice that might seem hierarchical (I hope not). It is more that these are statements of truths (that I have found/embody). More my inner wise one who speaks. Know too that I am always healing and learning, adjusting and have my own work/tendencies arise. Would love thoughts. Sorry I go off topic a little. And also hope there is some accessibility or simplicity woven into what I've wrote.
Daniel, I love this first thought of yours. I have been thinking about offering sessions in which we embody “the dharma” as there are so often dharma talks, but how do we truly live the dharma? Also, hope to do a series on The Art of Loving Mindfully (which I would love to talk to you more about) in the spring.
In order to love, we must first be grounded in ourselves and start from the bottom up. This requires time, space and deep inquiry. We must take rest in order to realize that we are always held by love (or God or divine consciousness or Mother Earth). I’ve found it helps to have a community (preferably a spiritual/intentional community) along the way. And so we start by subtly adjusting the way we live, learning to bring mindfulness/love/intention into everything we do. To do so, we must release speed from the body, dismantling the caffeinated culture of our time and/or penetrate through the cloudiness we find ourselves in as a byproduct of too much processed food, unprocessed emotions, drugs/alcohol, overconsumption of TV, etc. So we need to cultivate clarity, stability, while realizing our own inner knowing/guide.
So, we may begin with a life shattering moment that propels us into our own healing journey. Or it may be more subtle. The goal is to be able to touch joy, peace & love every day. I’ve committed my life and adjusted my lifestyle to do this, which is not accessible to everyone, but we can begin with simple steps.
The most potent practices are the ones that are done day by day, adjusting to our inner rhythms and the rhythms of the earth. It is foundational to have a daily routine that prepares the body, mind & spirit for the day. Nourishing ourselves in the morning with meditation, warm lemon water or room temp water, a prayer/mantra, maybe an Ayurvedic self-massage (Abhyanga), and/or some movement (yoga, tai chi, a walk outside). We begin by treating this vessel we move through the world in everyday as sacred and worthy of love. We can’t love or do anything if our basic needs are not being met or we do not feel good/ have energy. We can’t open to love if our bodies are tense and rigid. We can’t love if we don’t know or practice how to be present, how to breathe. Or if we are eating foods that has been slaughtered in violent ways, stuffed with chemicals our bodies have to work on overload to get rid of, or if we eat in ways that don’t bring harmony and nourishment to the body, mind, soul (eating on the go or while angry).
It’s a mind-body-spirit practice. We learn to love by practicing on ourselves. By speaking to our dogs, children, plants with loving-kindness. By caring for ourselves, honoring/accepting what we are feeling, and allowing ourselves to rest from the speed and standards we are compelled by. A beautiful practice is to make your own rituals. For every act a sacred act. You may start with just one thing- putting your child asleep with loving awareness; washing the dishes with your full attention; touching your body in soft, caring ways.
You might begin with a mantra… “I choose love.” “I choose to love myself no matter what I’m thinking.” “I choose to love myself no matter what I’m feeling.” “I am bountiful, I am beautiful, I am bliss.” “May I be loved and understood.” Repeat it throughout the day. Find music that moves you and births the seeds of joy, compassion, love.
Start by finding the reservoir of love within you. Nourish it. The more this reservoir is fed, the more love you will have to give. Metta meditations often start by giving ourselves love first so that we may replenish ourselves and have a pool in which to offer love to others.
You might begin your own practice by bringing attention to what you eat, when you eat, where you dine, why you eat, and how you feel before and after a meal. You might begin by cooking, learning to infuse love into food, creating your own medicine. Eat whole foods and you shall notice the love Mother Earth has poured into the produce of her womb and the lives that were taken to provide you with nourishment. Food nourishes our bodies and becomes the fine particles that create our higher consciousness. If our digestion is working well, we will have good immunity, energy, reserves and feel good. We become what we digest. We absorb the qualities of our food. So if our food is overly acidic, salty, and we over consume caffeine/stimulants, we will find it hard to settle/ be present as the mind is overly stimulated. We may feel constantly filled with desire and never quite happy, always looking for something to fill our cravings. Or if we eat overly processed foods, excess meat/dairy, frequent microwaved meals, we may feel more foggy, depressed, lethargic. However, when we retrain the body to eat in a more balanced way, unique to our specific needs and the season, with love & intention, we feel energized, clear, loving without all the efforting. This is challenging as eating is so emotional and the lack of love we feel perpetuates these cycles as well as the far from perfect industrialized food system and broader imbalances. I do realize though that I have local fresh, organic food accessible to me and live in a middle class area where good quality food is accessible and affordable.
We all tend to associate who we are with what we think. But we are not the mind. The mind is volatile and unsteady, it can get whisked away easily by illusions. So we must remember that at the seat of who we are, there is love. We are all bright, brilliant, bountiful & beautiful beings. We are all capable of giving & receiving love. We are love. Remind yourself daily with music, mantra, a word, or post-it.
We are all a divine manifestation of the cosmos. Once we understand our unique constitution, our position as a microcosm of the macrocosm. When we know thyself, love unfolds itself in tender and compassionate ways. It heals our inner child and renders understanding that will help us begin to understand and share our love with others. For the more we know about each other, the more we understand their suffering, we can’t help but feel compassion and love towards them.
This is what I’ve found true in my own embodiments/life.
Bio: Lara Johnson is an accredited Ayurvedic Health Counselor and Yoga Instructor based in Ithaca, NY. She holds a degree in Critical Health and Food Studies, and is also an all-around wonderful person.