Happy New Year’s Eve! As my favorite holiday approaches, so does Lesson 14.
Lesson 14: What is Love?
In November, I was serving a ten day Vipassana meditation course in Shelburne, MA. All day and every day the team of volunteers cooked food and served meals for the 100+ meditators. During this time, the theme of my experience was Metta, which, in short, is Sanskrit for Loving-Kindness.
As a student making sense of all this, I made it easy and considered Metta as simply Love. Not just romantic, fraternal, or familial love, but the all encompassing Love, Love, LOVE that is the basis of all existence.
Even with this understanding, I had difficulty parsing out what it means to Love. I thought I knew what it meant to love, but when I looked closer and asked myself, “Do I know how to love? How do I give love? How do I receive love?” The answers to these questions were clouded with haze like when I hear an obscure word and think I know the general definition and am definitely in the right direction, but wouldn’t bet on its accuracy.
Books and movies allude to love, drawing a caricature of what it is to love – hearts beating out of chests, sobbing in the rain, kisses all over, swooning and blissful, and out of this world. And because Love, or this idea of it, is so pervasive in our culture, I never stopped to ask myself what Love is and assumed I knew. So during the meditation course, when I was met with this realization that I don’t actually know Love well, this epiphany spurred two lessons in love.
Lessons in Love
My first uncovering was my perspective on Love as a Power Struggle. I’ve been pretending that giving love means I am submitting, being submissive, or must make myself less than. And conversely, receiving love means I am winning, I am dominant. In reality, there is no game of domination versus submission and I am free to play, dance, and create my own story. What’s been missing this entire time was Real, Unconditional Love.
The second lesson was that because I don’t give love, I don’t receive love and I’ve been okay with that. It has been my protection and a non-discriminatory practice that is quite effective in keeping everything out, including the light.
Learning In Progress
These days, I have been relating to the current leg of my journey as a robot learning to love again. Along the way, teachers have shown up with gentleness, compassion, and love who I’ve let in and taking that chance has made all the difference.
Ultimately it is up to me to take the step into Love, which I am scared to do. While there is improvement, this shadow of mine still shows up to keep me an arm’s distance away. Showing up as myself and being vulnerable is frightening. Love is my fear and desire. It is my craving for closeness and connection countered by my fearful withdrawal into self-isolation.
I don’t understand Love, which is why I fear it. As I move into my third decade, my lessons in love will grow. I will learn how to give Love, how to receive Love, how to feel it, be it, and embody it. My Metta practice is in a nascent stage, but as I continue down this path, it will become strong. May this year, 2020, bring many lessons in Love.