Just sit there right now
Don't do a thing
For your separation from the Friend,
Is the hardest work
February 14 is Valentine’s Day, a day set aside to celebrate love. A news outlet reported that this year more people were likely to celebrate the holiday as “Single Awareness Day,” gorging on self-gifted chocolates and wallowing in the despair of being alone and not with someone with whom they were romantically involved. Why this kind of statistic is considered of interest is further evidence of the process we are exploring in this article! A look into the evolution of this holiday shatters romantic illusions about human beings. In its first incarnation Valentine’s Day was a pagan Roman ritual of drunken revelry where women were lined up and whipped to make them more fertile. Since then it has been the feast day of martyred saints, a celebration of unrequited courtly love, a “big business day” for florists, chocolatiers, and greeting card producers, and more recently a platform to debate gender discrimination. It’s unsurprising to see Unconditional Love, the most intrinsic characteristic of Conscious Awareness, distorted by egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate to perpetuate suffering. As practitioners of Awareness perhaps we can rescue Feb 14 from its personal, religious, commercial, and political trappings and transform it into a celebration of True Love.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh captured a basic aspect of human suffering when he said, “All togetherness is illusory. The very idea of togetherness arises because we are alone, and the aloneness hurts. We want to drown our aloneness in relationship because we are afraid to be alone.”
From the perspective of any spiritual practice, we live in a non-separate reality, in an interconnectedness that is obvious if we pay attention. The notion that we are “alone” is the illusion. However, human beings have a unique ability to experience ourselves as separate from life. This ability of awareness to be aware of itself mutates into identification with an imaginary separation rather than a recognition of the oneness. The analogy we sometimes use is that of the sun and the moon. The moon shines because it reflects sunlight. We could say our identification with the ego is similar to the sun mistaking itself for the moon and bemoaning the fact that without the sun it cannot know itself as Light. But until we reach the spiritual maturity to recognize the illusion for what it is, we suffer from “absence of love” and the longing for it as the nature of our “reality.”
The longing to find the “perfect other” seems rooted in a deeply conditioned belief that the only way to experience who we are is for “who we are” to be confirmed/witnessed/validated by another’s reflection. I am lovable only if someone loves me. The pain of the absence of this perfect mirroring remains a subliminal thread that causes suffering, even if we proclaim ourselves to be past the stage of romantic illusions. The welling of gratitude if and when someone, somewhere, by some random act of grace, “sees” us and affirms our intrinsic nature is proof that the longing remains locked into the fiber of our being as a karmic orientation.
Longing is desire….it implies the absence of (fill in the blank). The longing to be mirrored so we can experience ourselves as whole, lovable, perfect implies an absence of a “lover,” or so we think. And so we set off on a quest to find that perfect other – parent, partner, friend. It takes practice to recognize that longing is identification with ego, with what we’re not, with absence rather than Presence. If we were identified with All That Is, how could we experience an absence of anything? Why would we ever be afraid to be alone with ourself?
The “enlightened mind” is defined in the Daily Recollection as the joy of Intelligence knowing itself. Socialization is the process by which we’re conditioned to reference the “other” to know that we’re okay. “Other” becomes conditioned mind, the memory bank of negative images, the mental mirror that we consult for all that we’re not and should be! We may lose touch with the ability to subjectively experience ourselves as Authenticity but we never lose the ability itself. Spiritual practice is perhaps the unlearning of “other” referencing as a way to know “who we truly are.” We learn to redirect attention from “longing and absence” to Being and Presence. The painful part of that process is to face and let go what was never true in the first place…that someone else is expected to make us happy.
The spiritual journey has often been described using the metaphor of a love story, and in this spiritual love story the magic love potion that guarantees falling in love with One’s self is attention. If we attend to what we are, we will know what we are, and in knowing what we are we will love what we are. In the words of Michael James, “To experience spiritual emancipation we must know our essential being, and to know our essential being we must love it. The more we love our essential being, the more we will attend to it; and the more we attend to it, the more clearly we will know it. Conversely, the more clearly we know our essential being the more we will love it, because it is the source of true happiness.”
A love affair with Life shatters our narrow definitions of what we conventionally seek in relationship with the “other.” It requires a recalibration of receptivity to a new frequency of Being. Unconditional Love isn’t needy and lacks the drama of longing that ego thrives on. Naturally, ego finds this kind of loving unsatisfactory because there is nothing in it for “me.” But once we find the love of our life by “being the person we hope to find,” it is possible to be in love with everyone and everything we interact with all the time. Relating to, rather than relationship with, becomes the nature of loving, and we can celebrate Valentine ’s Day as Happy Awareness Day in resonance with Rumi’s sentiment:
All these miracles are about to drive me crazy:
my elbows, my ears, my nose, my wife's nagging,
and the sweet darkness of the night, and this blanket existence
around my soul,
and my heart connected to the pulse of
I am afraid of the daylight.
Yesterday the Beloved was
balls, planets, and
Those who sparkle with this happiness of having found True Nature as True Love radiate a beauty that is irresistible. To paraphrase Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh again: “With all that love we cannot fail to attract lovers. Authenticity is the most marvelous aphrodisiac for Authenticity.” Awakening to our True Nature then allows us to be the mirror of love to any heart that is looking for itself. Now that’s a happy ending to a love story!