Wednesday, February 17, 2010

the lover

i'm a romantic by nature. i love to love. i live to love. love is everywhere, love is everything, LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. so imagine my chagrin when i pick up a lovely buddhist periodical, ON VALENTINE'S DAY, and read this:

"Romantic love, no matter how delicious, is the primary symptom of cultural malaise, the central neurosis of Western civilization.

By romantic love I mean that which focuses upon the loved one as an object of passion, devotion, and fixation. The loved one becomes the answer to all of life's problems, the source of all our happiness, and potentially, the source of all of our woes. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we can see that romantic love is deeply unhappy love, addicted to misery and suffering, cloaked in fantasy and separation."

i have enough experience with meditation and yoga to "understand" this message, but my heart, frankly, yelped like a puppy being kicked when i read this. i tend toward the dramatic, but doesn't EVERYBODY need love? what is love if not complete and utter surrender to another? well, some might say it's a healthy relationship...the idea behind the article i found is that pumping up love, or the object of our love, to be the cure-all in our lives is a recipe for disaster. therefore, we should use meditation to cut through fantasy and illusion to relate to life as it really is, in order to create REAL magic. well, if you put it that way, creating a relationship to something real is undoubtedly more fulfilling than relating to an illusion. but letting go of fantasy and romance....well, where's the fun in that? i'm torn between these two seemingly distinct beings within myself who approach love from entirely opposite ends of the spectrum- reason and passion, and i'm determined to reconcile the two. or maybe introduce them for the first time...

let's be clear that we're talking about romantic love here. we've all felt love, in the general sense, whether we classified it as such or not. that light, lifting feeling when you're surrounded by people you love, laughing, standing two feet deep in the crashing waves with the sun on your face, or having all the wind sucked out of you while listening to a certain piece of music. that sense of awe and wonder, to me, is the definition of love. in those moments, love is big and beautiful and wondrous and life-giving. but when that feeling is caused by one other person who makes your nether-regions tingle, well you better watch out because here's where it gets confusing; here's when we have to ask, what does it mean to love, and who decides?

i remember being in a yoga class and the teacher said, "when you give support to your heart you can open up without risking getting hurt." she was referring momentarily to a back bend, but obviously relating to real life scenarios. she always spoke so beautifully about the importance of having boundaries in order to be truly open. but without a full explanation i imagine the real meaning was lost on most of the class because, in our culture, any reference to the heart is either medical or entirely poetic. we have movies and music talking about the ecstasy of love and the 'ONE' and all that other poetic perfection, and then experience the real life instances of saying 'i love you,' and having the object of our affection turn on their heels and run for the hills. how then do we deal with the emotional aftermath of rejection? listening to sade on repeat, staring at the phone, driving slowly down the other person's street with the headlights off...or whatever...with 'Grey's Anatomy' polluting society's collective mind about the 'shoulds' of relationships, people end up going through life either exposing themselves and their emotions to the point of indecency, or walking around with electrified barbed wire fences around themselves.

if you've seen the movie, 'UP,' there's a scene between a man and his dog that illustrates my heart's understanding of love; Dug, the dog, knocks on the door of his master's house (Dug decided this man would be his master, while the master refused...classic dramatized love story.) then he says simply, "i was hiding under your porch because i LOVE you.....can i stay?" in Dug's world, love is something automatic, and mindless. Dug doesn't THINK about it, he just loves his master because that's his master. and even when the master says over and over again, 'i'm NOT your master,' Dug persists. it's adorable, it's heartbreaking, it's a cartoon. it's entertaining because we know it can't end badly. put that into the context of the real world it's slightly pathetic. and painful to watch because, unfortunately, in real life, the Disney producers aren't guiding the story line to ensure a happy ending for the love-starved dog named Dug.

i don't believe the heart can be controlled. but it can be reasoned with, to some degree. if you live your life in a 'protective' state of mind- not expecting anyone to be able to understand your heart, or to fully appreciate and protect the gift of your love, you're not going to believe in or even recognize the miracle of that person when they show up. the balance point is to be present enough to recognize the butterflies and skipped beats, AND protective enough to realize that YOU are ultimately responsible for the fate of that little heart. it's up to each of us to determine whether or not the object of our lust deserves that pink pulsing muscle in our chest. love is a gift, and sometimes we give gifts that are appreciated fully and sometimes we give gifts that WE really like, but the significance is totally lost on the recipient. believe in the possibility of shared love, fall in love with your own heart first, and when the time is right you can spill your guts in a tidy way. magic is real, but we have to give it REAL LIFE context, because it can be really not fun, too. in that way, loving someone is just like anything else- let's say a shower- it's something you need regularly, it's something that can go from hot to cold in a split second, it can make a big difference in your day and your health, and it's something that can be easily taken for granted. but we all need to shower.

in the game of love, there are bound to be casualties. involuntary manslaughter. homicide. suicide. if you know the content of your own heart, if you talk to your heart regularly, know its secrets, its desires, its needs, you will learn how to feed it and care for it. and then when someone comes along who might be worthy of the gift of your love, the two of you can share it. i don't know that i'll ever completely get over the impulse to rip my still-beating heart out of my chest and wrap it in a big pink, bloody bow for my lover, but i guess i just have to take that risk, one love at a time.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

why can't you be perfect?!, or, "she who is independent and free"

"If you're a left-winger, you may think right-wingers are stupid or evil or both. If you're a right-winger, you probably hold the same attitudes about left-wingers. A similar pattern prevails between most other groups that hold opposing views. You're a rare person if you've never looked at a certain group of people and thought to yourself, "They are all sick idiots."

But I'm asking you to find out what it's like to dispense with judgments like that. In fact, try living without any scapegoats whatsoever. If even for an hour per week, visualize the possibility that those with whom you disagree might be sincere and well meaning.

I'm not suggesting this exercise merely because it's a nice thing to do. It will also have the effect of giving you access to parts of your own intelligence that have been closed off to you."

searching for inspiration today, i sit down at my roommate's computer, open up my treasured "Free Will Astrology" reading for the week, and what do i find? a gem of a fortune. not my horoscope, but a "Sacred Advertisement" for my sign. this man seems to know all. was he reading my thoughts all morning? and was it really the stars that aligned to create a day full of judgment and disappointment in another?

why is that we- i'm sorry- why do I put so much pressure on people to be perfect? why am i so critical? well, i have done some research into myself, and because i believe in taking responsibility for our lives, as well as cosmic truths, i use astrology to gain some insights into my tendencies.....for better or for worse....

my sun sign is capricorn- ambitious and practical, likely to have an excellent sense of social responsibility. great. read on: "you put yourself under enormous pressure to perform, and can feel personally responsible for those around you. you may have suffered from a restrictive early environment, and your aloofness may serve to protect you from dealing with a fear of intimacy, or low self-esteem. you exemplify the values of hard work and accomplishment, and service to the goals of humanity, and your redemption comes when you allow the spiritual joy that you feel inside to fully express itself in graceful acts of loving-kindness."

*often unable to reconcile the "i shoulds" with the "i wants," i turn my confusion onto others. "you should, because i can't!" and sometimes just, "i suck." yet, somewhere inside there's a *SPARK* of love and compassion and grace that i would really like to put forth more often...especially in situations like yesterday....(details aren't important...let's just say my expectations weren't met and i got a little huffy...)

the sign of capricorn is ruled by the dark, paternal planet of saturn. great. daddy issues: "saturn is the planet of limitation and contraction, and the trials of life experience. this includes discipline, punctuality, and the conservation of material resources. it indicates areas where the personality will be restricted by fears and lack of confidence."

*ironically, my father was never the disciplinarian, but here's how i've learned to behave under saturn: i HATE to be late for things. ANYTHING. and if you tell me you'll 'be there later,' i want you to give me an exact time. please. it really stresses me out. and if you tell me that you'll be there and have to cancel, i get mad. or really sad. i make mistakes. often. and tend to dwell on how to redeem myself. oh, and i revert to being 5 years old if you take my food. serious big brother trauma. don't i sound like fun?!

LUCKILY, capricorn is also an earth sign, so there's some balance to all that hard-nosed, know-it-all energy: "the earth element is feminine or yin, in-taking and receptive. it corresponds to the jungian typology of sensation. earth people are in touch with their bodies and the pleasures of the physical world around them. they are givers of form and structure. they endure."

*so, basically, i like to tell people what to do, and i like it when people touch me. i really like it... and i'm a giver. who loves food and drink. so, you know, i can be fun OCCASIONALLY.

how about chinese astrology, in which i am the poster puppy for the sign of the dog, "who symbolizes character traits such as loyalty, compatibility and kindness. dogs frequently offer kind words and useful advice, always listening and lending a shoulder when necessary. dogs often become deeply involved in others’ lives. ensuring others are happy is more important to the dog than wealth, money or success."

*i'll be there for you whenever you need me. i'll even scratch your belly. just bring me a treat!

"dogs at times can also be temperamental, narrow-minded and stubborn. dogs can benefit by learning to relax and being more rational."


now take a listen to some jyotish (ancient astrology of india) advice for yesterday (when my critical knob turned WAY up!): "today practice seeing what you can’t see. see beyond the limitations of your pre-conceived notions about people, places and things. maybe he really isn’t a jerk. maybe she really isn’t selfish. maybe this world is just a dream happening in a gigantic mind."

*hah. maybe he really isn't a jerk.....interesting....

ok, so maybe i overreacted. perhaps i could offer a more graceful solution to the situation (again, details aren't important, because the FACT of the matter is that i tend to be overly critical AND sensitive...lucky him...) i don't know that i can fully let go of my resentment and violent wishes for the workmen upstairs (SERIOUSLY?! WHY do you need to THROW everything?! isn't there a way to hammer quietly???) but now i can acknowledge that my thoughts are futile, if not a little childish. (no, stacey, construction can't be done quietly just because you don't want to be disturbed. these men are actually WORKING. you're sitting on one's out to ruin your day.) at the end of the day, and as much as i hate to admit it, deep down inside i'm just a wet little puppy dog lookin' for someone to love...

and to conclude, i'll share what i think is by far the most meaningful reading of all these traditions- of all the ways to read the stars- here's what the cosmos had to say today:

Thursday, February 4, 2010 (Waning 7th Phase; Libra/Svati ~ “She Who is Independent and Free”)

"In the days of Rama (the epic hero and godman of the Ramayana), no one believed that a mere monkey could defeat a powerful demon. And yet, one by the name of Hanuman did.

In the days of the ancient Israelites, no one believed that David could defeat Goliath. And yet, he did.

And in the days of Middle Earth, no one believed that a humble hobbit could rescue the world from darkness. And yet, he did."

so why do you think you’re so helpless?

gather your courage. surrender your pride and insecurities. you have absolutely nothing to lose. take a momentous leap of faith.