Endless Love

Love is a gift.  Not a promise.

The only promise is this:  that love will never end.  It may change forms.  It may not appear in the way you expect.  It may surprise you, challenge you, change you.  But it will not end.  All it asks is that you say yes to the gift, without clinging to it.  Clinging to it denies what it is–ceaseless, bottomless, endless–and kills what it might become.

Be grateful for all of the love in your life, whether it comes from a cherished partner, a new friend, or the breeze of a summer day.  The more love you are willing to accept into your heart, the more love will appear.  Cherish whatever form love takes, and whatever ways it grows and changes.  Surrender to the love you already have, and you will never find yourself without it.

We cannot capture time, cannot stop the world.  Savor what is here and now.  Open your heart to what is before you and within you.  Learn to listen and to wait.

Nothing belongs to you.  Why would you want to own anything?  You would only become a slave, rather than a lover.

Everything Begins Within

Years ago, alone on a long car trip, I mused about my ideal partner.  I saw someone compassionate and kind, easy with himself and able to put others at ease as well.  I saw someone gentle, open to new ideas, able to enjoy the simple moments of life and to help others do the same.  And then, in a flash, I realized–I wasn’t fantasizing about a love affair.  I was seeing a vision of who I wanted to be.

In both our daydreams and our waking lives, we often project onto others both our hopes and our fears.  We are annoyed by qualities we fear we possess; we long for people who embody the type of person we want to be.  But because no relationship can ever replace the one you have with yourself, you cannot find without what you have not found within.

Once we realize that, and learn to cultivate within ourselves the qualities we admire in others, we find that we are the ones we have been waiting for.  And that others who have those same qualities are drawn to us effortlessly, naturally, reflecting back to us the person we are, the person we have become.

You don’t need anyone to complete you; you are already complete.  Everything you long for, everything you long to be, is already a part of you, waiting for you to realize it.  I once played a game with family and friends, asking each one what quality they most wished they possessed.  Without exception, every single person answered with something that they not only already had, but had in abundance.  One, the soul of kindness and patience, wanted to be more kind and patient.  Another, always organized to the last detail, wanted to be more organized.  The life of the party wanted to be friendlier.  I said I wanted to be calmer, serene no matter the circumstances; everyone laughed.

Let your friends and partners be your playmates, sources of joy and strength in your life, but remember that everything you long for already exists within your own soul.  Once you do, you cannot help but find it everywhere you look.

Kindness

Joy, kindness & love–my mother & me, 1979.

For my mother–my muse and inspiration for joy, kindness and love, and for all the mothers who see and nurture the beauty of their children.

Magic lives in the most simple acts of kindness. When we are kind, when we notice the kindness of others, we invite more beauty and grace into the world.

Kind people are more beautiful to us. We trust them, we cherish them, even if their gifts are not always trumpeted. True kindness requires intelligence and courage. It is a quiet power, but one that is unique and formidable. We love kind people; we want to be around them. We love ourselves when we act from a place of compassion. When we act from a place of love, we understand the divinity in all things, feel the oneness that mystics and sages sing about.

Acts of kindness do not ignore the self–after all, the way we treat ourselves mirrors the way we treat others. We cannot deal with ourselves cruelly and still be good to others, or the other way around.

But kindness can often go unnoticed, simply because we forget to look for it. We notice when others neglect us, when a careless word causes us pain. Why not look instead for the ways in which we are loved, the ways in which our love is reflected back to us? Assume that others are good and kind; assume always that others are doing the best they can as they walk their own paths. Trust the beauty and goodness in yourself, and don’t be afraid to share it.

“My religion is kindness.” ~Dalai Lama

Quiet

Wisdom creeps near when it finds one who is sitting, listening, opening.  It is like a small creature of the forest, frightened away by loud noises, by loud thoughts; drawn only to the beauty that dares to visit alone.  It trusts only those who are still, patient and open, those who will greet vulnerability with love.

Our thoughts are a field of butterflies:  numerous, fragile, impossible to contain.  But some are worth catching.  The ones nearest our own souls will slow down their flight, wait for us to catch up and wrap a net of pen and paper around them.  They will not fly away, not if we sing them our stories.  Not if we promise to listen well.

What song do they sing?

Live now.  Be here now.  Be radiant now.

Can you see that this is Heaven?

All our transformations begin within.  The external world follows the soul, not the other way around.  Some say our world is an illusion; I believe it is a mirror, a reflection offering us the chance to learn, to grow, to explore.  As our souls grow and expand, our worlds grow with them, for we are one.

Be open to change.  Say yes, and give thanks.  Then keep listening to the quiet voice of wisdom that lives within your heart.

Ask For What You Want

We are divine.  We are spiritual beings.  We are powerful.  But we are not mind-readers.  That is why we must ask for what we want.

No matter how much someone loves you, how long they’ve known you, or how deeply they care, they cannot read your mind.  We often fall into the trap of expecting others to figure out what we want.  We say things like “if you really knew me” or “if you really loved me” you would know what it is I want.  We make it a test of love, a test of faith.  And yet–don’t we usually demand that others figure out what we want because we ourselves aren’t sure?  Or, worse yet, because we are afraid to speak up and be honest about our true desires?

Instead of taking the time to ask ourselves what it is we really desire, we focus on all the things we don’t want, and blame others for not solving our problems.  But who could?  Who could ever know what it is we truly desire better than we do?  No one sees the world quite the same way you do.  No one else has your unique heart, mind and soul.  No one is better equipped than you to determine what you want out of life.

Don’t expect others to be mind-readers; don’t pretend you are one.  Take the time to investigate your true and deep desires, and then ask for what you want.

Cracked

There was once a crack in the mirror of a powerful and beautiful queen.  When she looked into the glass, seeking confirmation of her beauty, she saw instead the image of another:  Snow White.  Because of the crack in the mirror–a crack in her own soul–she did not understand what she saw.  She did not realize that what we see in others is a reflection of ourselves.

We doubt our power when we forget to use it.  We doubt our beauty when we look for it outside of ourselves.  And so the queen believed that her youth and beauty were gone to another, and determined to kill the young Snow White.  But Snow White was the image the queen saw when she looked into the glass–how could she kill Snow White without killing a part of herself?

As for Snow White, the queen’s pursuit sent her on a journey of discovery.  She began as a victim, alone and hunted through a dark forest, and emerged a queen in her own right, sure of her own strength and power.  Two faces in the glass; two journeys of discovery.  Both are two sides of the same coin.  We all have power and beauty within us.  When we see the gifts of others as a part of our own light, our power and beauty grow.  When we see others as separate, as a threat, an enemy to be destroyed, we can only destroy ourselves.

We are surrounded by mirrors, constantly reminded of who we are and what we have within us.  The beauty you see in others is a reflection of the beauty that is within you.  The power you see in others is a reflection of the power that lies within you.  The whole world is your mirror.  Instead of asking who is the fairest of them all, ask instead to understand that the fairest is the one who sees beauty in others as well as in his or herself.

What Women Want

There is a story that answers the oldest of questions:  what do women want?

A young and handsome knight of Camelot, named Gawain, set out to find the answer to save King Arthur from losing his throne.  It sounds perilous–an entire kingdom dependent on determining what women want.  But for a true knight, all things are possible.  Answers always present themselves to those who honestly seek them.

For Sir Gawain, the answer presented itself in the guise of an old woman.  She appeared in the forest, withered by age and sickness, and asked him for food.  Being a kind as well as noble knight, Gawain made a place for her by the warm fire and gave her his food and drink.  In gratitude, she told Gawain that she knew of his quest and would give him the answer he sought, if he would take her back to Camelot and make her his wife.

This was a harsh fate for a strong, handsome young man, the prize of the court and the favorite of all the beautiful young ladies.  But Arthur’s kingdom was at stake, and so Gawain could do nothing but agree.

Upon his promise to marry her, she told him the secret of what all women want–to have their own way.  But the story does not end there.

Gawain and his promised bride returned to Camelot, and the entire court grieved at seeing the young man bound to a haggard old woman, wise though she might be.  But the wedding was duly planned and celebrated in lavish style, and that night Gawain joined his new bride in their wedding chamber.

When the court had retired and the couple were alone, a miraculous thing occurred–the wise woman was surrounded by glowing light, and then her form shifted and changed into that of a stunning young beauty with flowing blonde hair and cornflower blue eyes.

“I was cursed by an evil magician,” the lady said, “and forced to walk the world as an old woman before my time, until and unless a knight of Arthur’s court would make me his wife.  But I am afraid the curse is not completely broken, and a choice is before you, my husband.  You must choose–would you have me be beautiful by day, when all the court could see me, or at night, when we are alone together in our bedchamber?  What, my husband, would you desire?”

“I cannot decide,” Gawain declared, after a moment’s thought.  “You must choose what is more pleasing to you.”

“And now,” cried his lady, “the curse is well and truly broken, and I am free to appear as my true self at all hours of the day, for you have given me what all women wish for–the ability to have my own way.”

It is not only women, of course, who long to have their own way.  For what does it mean, to have one’s own way, but to be one’s true and authentic self, at all times and in all places?  This is the gift of love that breaks all curses, and sets us free.

Nevertheless

Maybe I’m right, and maybe I’m wrong/Maybe I’m weak, and maybe I’m strong/But nevertheless, I’m in love with you.

Maybe I’ll win, and maybe I’ll lose/Maybe I’m in for cryin’ the blues/But nevertheless, I’m in love with you.

Somehow, I know at a glance, the terrible chances I’m taking/Fine at the start, then left with a heart that is breaking.

Maybe I’ll live a life of regret, and maybe I’ll give much more than I’ll get/But nevertheless, I’m in love with you.

–Nevertheless (I’m in Love with You), Frank Sinatra, Nice ‘n’ Easy (music & lyrics by Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar)

To love is to risk.  To open to another is to dare.  It is because we cannot know the outcome, that we are not assured of success, that choosing love is an adventure.  To love, nevertheless, is to face life with the strength and the courage of heroes.

And to give much more than we get–may we all be so lucky.  Because that is the secret to love.

I learned that from my father.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  I love you.

Into The Labyrinth

Ariadne was a princess of Crete, daughter of Minos, the king that created the labyrinth that housed the Minotaur.  There is a dark family history here–the Minotaur, half-man and half-bull, was the son of a pure white bull and the queen, Ariadne’s mother.  He was a monstrous creature who devoured innocent men and women, and so was imprisoned within a dark and twisting labyrinth far beneath the palace.

The hero Theseus arrived from Athens intent on destroying the monster.  For love of him, the princess Ariadne betrayed her father and family and promised the hero her help.  She gave Theseus a ball of red thread, and told him that if he would unwind it as he made his way through the labyrinth, he would then be able to follow the thread out again.

Did Theseus need the red thread?  Or was Ariadne’s gift one of hope and comfort?  A labyrinth, unlike a maze, is not always a place of dead-ends and twisting turns.  A labyrinth may be a direct, although curving, journey to the center of the self, a winding path that is nevertheless sure in its destination and in the return.  It is, in fact, a mirror of our own lives.  We can see ourselves as lost in a frightening maze, unsure of the terrors around the next corner.  Or we can see ourselves in a true labyrinth, in which we cannot see what lies ahead but know we will ultimately be led to the center of our souls, and back again.  The fact that we cannot see what is coming next is the gift of time.

We fear that, buried deep within our souls, far below the realm of our daily lives, there lives within us a beast, an unknown and unfaced aspect of ourselves that cannot be controlled.  But into the labyrinth we must go, as Theseus did, to face the part of ourselves that we would hide.

Whatever the Minotaur represents, and whether his home was a maze or a labyrinth, Theseus took Ariadne’s thread with him and was able to slay the beast.  On finding his way safely out, from darkness into the light, he stole away with Ariadne, sailing back towards Athens with the promise that he would make her his wife.

And then he left her, alone and sleeping, on the shore of a small island.  Some versions of the tale say he was unwillingly swept away in a storm, in grief over her loss; others that he had no care for her and abandoned her at the first opportunity.  And yet other versions claim that he was forced to leave by the God of Wine, Dionysus, who loved her and desired her for himself.

When Ariadne awoke, alone on the sandy beach, she thought herself abandoned and betrayed, whatever the reality might have been.  She had left her family, her home, her life, to sail away with a man who did not or could not love her as she loved him.  She did not realize that, whatever Theseus’ intent, a better future awaited her.  One in which she was the chosen, the beloved, of a god, brought into the heavens and made a goddess in her own right.  Her wedding crown, the Corona, was placed in the night sky as a constellation, as a tribute to the endless love between Dionysus and Ariadne.

Like Psyche, Ariadne could not have known what future awaited her; none of us can.  But it is usually better than we could ever hope or imagine.

Friendly Romance

There is a concept in “A Course in Miracles,” brilliantly explained by Gabrielle Bernstein in her book Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles, that we should make our romantic relationships more brotherly (Bernstein says “friendly”) and our brotherly (“friendly”) relationships more romantic.  Which is to say that we should treat our romantic partners like friends, and look for love and connection from all of our loved ones, not only those we call our husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends.

So many men and women treat one another as a mirror for themselves.  They look for a partner who reflects well on them–has the right image, the right job, knows the right jokes to tell at cocktail parties.  We love our partners when they behave the way we want and expect them to; if they act in a way we don’t like, we grow angry because we think it reflects badly on us.

At the same time, we can feel that our partners have similar expectations of us, to behave in a certain way, to be a certain kind of person.  And since we grow and change all the time, it is no wonder that so many relationships that began in love end in sadness or anger.  What began as interest in another person, in learning about their uniqueness, their hopes and dreams, their true selves, becomes something else we need to control, something that reflects on us.  We judge the people we claim to love most.  Love is destroyed and peace with it.

No matter how connected two people are, they are always free and separate beings.  When we give others the greatest of gifts–the permission to be themselves, just as they are–we give ourselves the same gift.  When we understand that all the love in the world is already ours, we do not need to cling to anyone, or depend on anyone for our happiness.  We can come together as lovers, as playmates, as friends, and as we grow and change we have nothing to fear, because we have no expectations or demands.

This is the way we treat our friends.  We enjoy being with them, but we do not treat them as mirrors for ourselves.  We do not expect them to behave a certain way; we take them for themselves.  We love them for themselves.  We enjoy watching them grow and change because it isn’t a threat to us or to the relationship.  Why be less kind to the one you love most?

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